The widow of legendary singer Bobby Caldwell has revealed her final years of hell battling side effects caused by a common antibiotic at the center of multimillion-dollar lawsuits.
The star was prescribed fluoroquinolone in 2017 to treat a cold, but within a week she was bedridden. She devastated her body and left him with “unbearable” nerve damage, setting him on a fatal course that ultimately led to him dying of heart disease at age 71 last year.
‘It was so fierce and sudden. It just devastated my husband,” Mary Caldwell told DailyMail.com.
For much of his final years, the confident actor she knew and loved would simply “sit and cry” because of the excruciating pain he suffered.
Mary is trying to raise awareness so others don’t have to suffer like Bobby did, but the drug is still prescribed to tens of millions of Americans each year.
Last week, it was reported that a mother, who was prescribed a medication from the same family of antibiotics to treat her urinary tract infection, was He was left unable to walk after suffering a similar reaction.
Happily in love: Bobby and Mary Caldwell on their wedding day in 2004
Bobby suffered the devastating effects of a fluoroquinolone antibiotic he was prescribed. “The pain started in the soles of his feet and ankles, and then as time went on, the pain continued to increase, all the way up to his knees, and eventually affected his hands,” his wife told DailyMail.com .
Bobby’s ordeal began on January 13, 2017, a date his wife will never forget: it was her birthday.
Bobby had a “nuisance” runny nose and cough and was prescribed cough syrup and Levaquin, a brand of levofloxacin, a type of fluoroquinolone used to treat bacterial infections.
He took seven pills over the course of seven days.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” Mrs. Caldwell said. Just a week later, Bobby couldn’t get out of bed.
‘Maria, I can’t get up. My ankles are killing me,’ he told his wife.
Bobby’s foot. The drug tore both of his Achilles tendons.
His ankles were beginning to swell. “It was amazing,” Mrs. Caldwell said. ‘It occurred to me (that it could be medicine).’
Mrs. Caldwell grabbed the bottle and Googled it. “A chill ran down my spine because I started seeing horror stories and law firms,” she said.
It turned out that over the course of the week, the drug had ruptured both of Bobby’s Achilles tendons.
Dr. Mark Ghalili, a board-certified physician in Los Angeles, California, told Daily Mail.com that the drug “causes disruptions in collagen creation.”
“If you can’t create collagen, you end up with very weak and fragile tendons,” he said.
In 2008, the first black box label was added to fluoroquinolones to warn patients about the increased risk of tendon rupture and tendonitis (inflamed tendons).
The problem is seen in up to one in 250 patients, but the older the patient, the greater the risk of the damage causing wider health problems.
Doctors aren’t taught about them in medical school, Dr. Ghalili said, so they don’t tell their patients about them.
“The pain started in the soles of my feet and ankles, and then as time went on, the pain continued to increase, all the way up to my knees, and eventually affected my hands,” Ms Caldwell said.
Bobby and his wife in San Francisco
‘I couldn’t feel anything. Her fingers were numb. She was in constant, horrible pain. She didn’t get much sleep. If she slept two hours straight, it was a lot.’
“He suffered until the day he died,” Mrs. Caldwell said.
The damage to Bobby’s nerves was irreversible, so doctors could only offer him painkillers, which didn’t work, his wife said.
The couple sought advice from doctors across the United States, but “nobody could fix it.”
“(Bobby’s Achilles tear) was horrible, but that wasn’t the worst of it,” his wife said.
The antibiotic had also caused permanent nerve damage, leaving Bobby with peripheral neuropathy, which “caused unrelenting, horrible pain”, Mrs Caldwell said.
Fluoroquinolones quickly stop the activity of essential enzymes, meaning bacteria cannot replicate.
The drugs will only enter cells with nasty bacteria. They interfere with DNA so cells stop producing enzymes and die.
The medications act quickly, which means that side effects can also appear very quickly.
The nerves are covered with endoneurium, a layer of delicate connective tissue composed of collagen fibers.
“If you break down the collagen fibers that protect a nerve, you expose the nerve to oxidative stress and damage,” Dr. Ghalili said.
His early days: Here the artist is seen in 1970 in a photo from PBR INT
Dr. Ghalili sympathizes with Bobby over his own brush with death after being prescribed the antibiotic when he was young.
“At my worst, I called local cemeteries and gave my family my last wishes,” he told ABC.
Six fluoroquinolones are currently approved for use in the US: ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, gemifloxacin, levofloxacin, moxifloxacin, and delafloxacin.
In 2022, it will be prescribed to about 14.8 million people, according to figures provided by the CDC.
Its recommended uses include: anthrax, gonorrhea, typhoid fever, complicated bacterial infections, and urinary tract infections. if other treatments have failed.
The FDA has received reports of hundreds of thousands of serious adverse events associated with fluoroquinolones from more than 60,000 patients since the 1980s.
The most common adverse effects include tendon rupture and neurological and psychiatric symptoms.
The drug is intended to be used as a last resort, but doctors are overprescribing it, the American Pharmacists Association said.
RIP: Mary, whom he married in 2004, wrote on Twitter: ‘Bobby passed away here at home. I held him tight in my arms when he left us. I am always heartbroken
“In medical school they never teach you the side effects of these medications,” Dr. Ghalili said.
‘I have spoken to many people who have been affected by this or know someone (who has). “There have been people who have died after two doses,” Ms. Caldwell said.
‘The other scary thing… you can take Cipro or Levaquin and you’ll be fine. Then the next time you take it, all hell will break loose.
He added: “I’m not saying that the drug has no purpose, because it does.” If you have anthrax or if you have a bacterial infection that does not respond to any antibiotics, this is a last resort.
‘You can still develop side effects, but it could save your life. The problem is that these doctors are throwing it at people. Oh, do you have a UTI? Here you have. Oh, you have some kind of infection. Here you have. Oh, do you have some kind of infection? Here you have.
‘It’s a black box warning label drug, it has a history of lawsuits and FDA warnings here in the states. I wonder: are the doctors doing their homework?
Bobby was never informed of the risks of the medication, his wife claimed.
‘The guy just handed him the recipe. The pharmacy didn’t say anything.
“If you read the black box warning from the FDA, it says it’s not supposed to be given to people over 60. It basically says this is a last resort.”
Bobby was 65 years old when he was given the prescription.
With the nerve damage causing him severe pain and his ruptured tendons leaving him bedridden, Bobby was set on a fatal course and eventually died of heart disease.
“He died in my arms,” Mrs. Caldwell said.
‘My message is: before swallowing anything, look for it and discuss it. Ask if it has a warning label with a black box,’ he said.
Dr Ghalili became seriously ill and disabled after being prescribed the antibiotic Cipro.
‘Just don’t trust blindly, because we did… You really have to question and do your own research. If they say no, that doesn’t happen. Forgive me, but nonsense. Happens.
“The scary thing is, once it happens, most of the time, if you get hit, like Bobby was, there’s no going back,” he added.
In December 2016, Dr. Ghalili had just completed his medical training. He had also been prescribed Cipro for an infection.
He was running on the treadmill at the gym when his legs buckled and he lost control of his limbs.
Dr. Ghalili lost the ability to walk and was forced to crawl. “The drug poisoned me,” he said.
Before the incident, Dr. Ghalili had even prescribed the drugs to his own patients.
He turned to alternative therapies and, after six months confined to a wheelchair, an experimental infusion of stem cells helped him walk again.
Dr. Ghalili now works to help patients recover from the devastating consequences of receiving antibiotics.