Today, he lives day to day and rarely leaves his house in Ottawa. Most of his time is spent managing a range of chronic health problems that zap his energy and drag him down.
Girard’s troubles began back in Colorado with a broken ankle that required a set of pins and screws to hold it all together. When a hospital-acquired infection set in (Staphylococcus Aureus), doctors hooked him up to a Kleflex antibiotic drip and prescribed him massive oral quantities of Levaquin, one of the group of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones or FQs.
“I had a reaction immediately. I knew something was horribly wrong right away,” says Girard, recalling those first days in the hospital.
“I started complaining,” says Girard. “Day ten I lost control of my bladder. I was sitting there p*****g myself. I told them, ‘hey, I’ve never done this before.’ They give more pills. By day 17, I had blood clots in my chest and arms and I was back in the hospital for the third time in a month.”
Everything was unraveling. Within three weeks Girard says he was as “sick as a dog.” I had a headache, nausea, I had diarrhea, I was confused and disorientated, I had insomnia, the muscles in my eyes and my cheeks were twitching, and the veins were bulging.”
He was trying to literally get back on his feet when a physiotherapist discovered that the tendons around his ankle area were mush.
Within 18 months he’d lost his emotional and physical health. His job was gone and he was homeless and feeling suicidal. Friends even raised money for him to limp home to Canada.
In the months and years ahead, he began to hear about Levaquin and hundreds perhaps thousands of people whose adverse events have been reported to the FDA after being prescribed fluoroquinolones for everything from bladder to respiratory infections.
As Girard says, “I’d been floxed.”
In 2008, the FDA requested that fluoroquinolones carry a boxed warning that the antibacterials could cause tendonitis or tendon ruptures. In 2013, the FDA required that drug labels and medication guides carry warnings of peripheral neuropathy, or serious and potential permanent nerve damage.
Commonly used FQs include levofloxacin (Levaquin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), moxifloxacin (Avelox), norfloxacin (Noroxin), ofloxacin (Floxin) and gemifloxacin (Factive).
Soft-spoken, serious and knowledgeable, Girard has become the “official unofficial” leader of a worldwide group of people living with health effects attributed to use of FQs. They refer to themselves as “Floxies.”
“I am pretty much the leader of the Facebook community,” says Girard. “I am the senior administrator of the largest and busiest of the support groups. I have also generated and started filling in all kinds of specialized groups like Christian Floxies, and there’s a group for research, where all we deal with is new scientific research.
“The biggest group is the Fluoroquinolones Toxicity Group,” says Girard. “We are at about 2,150 members. There have been as many as three or four thousand members of this group. People heal up and get on with their lives or they just need to not be there and exposed to the negativity. We are as positive as we can be about it but the subject matter is just horrible.”
For many people, the concept of being “floxed” is difficult to comprehend. “The reaction is mostly disbelief,” says Girard. “They have been taking antibiotics their whole life and never had anything like that. Or they have taken Cipro and they have arthritis or depression but don’t understand it could be from the Cipro. But the reaction is mostly disbelief - until it happens to you.”
Fluoroquinolones, or more accurately their precursors, were developed as a chemotherapy drug. When it was discovered that the compound could actually kill bacteria, they were reformulated and marketed as antibiotics. However, they are far from penicillin.
Simply put, fluoroquinolones work by entering the bacteria’s DNA and preventing it from reproducing. However, they do not work only on bacterial DNA. They actually penetrate all the cells in the body. It’s believed that the tendons rupture because the FQs confuse the DNA, and the cells literally get mixed up.
“Tendons will be rebuilding wrong, and rebuilding wrong until one day you overextend them and they snap. People get it in their shoulder, rotator cuff, hands, wrist,” adds Girard.
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Interestingly, Girard makes something very clear.
“Despite all the crap I have gone through, these drugs probably saved my life,” notes Girard. “If I had not been given an FQ, the infection could easily have killed me so I am grateful. I was just prescribed them for far too long and in conjunction with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) and proton pump inhibitors, both of which are contraindicated.”
Much of Girard’s available energy is spent online, gathering and sharing information about FQs and talking to people with adverse reactions they believe are connected to FQs. “I do a lot of counseling. Talking to people who are not doing well at all.”