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Company abandons antibiotic linked to blood sugar problems

May 2, 2006 | CBC News

An antibiotic linked to serious blood-sugar complications has been pulled from the market in Canada and the U.S.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said Tuesday it will no longer make or sell the antibiotic Tequin, also known as gatifloxacin.
The antibiotic Tequin treats infections in the respiratory and urinary tracts, bladder infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.

However, current stocks of the drug are not being recalled, a spokesman for Bristol-Myers Squibb said.

Anyone taking the drug shouldn't discontinue the treatment until they talk to a doctor about an alternative, Eric Miller advised.

The company made the decision because of marketing reasons, added Marc Osborne, director of public relations for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in Montreal.

People over age 65 taking Tequin showed more than a four-fold increase in the risk of being treated in hospital for low blood sugar compared with people who were on an older class of antibiotics, Canadian researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in March.

 Tequin is used to treat respiratory infections, urinary tract and bladder infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had required stronger warnings on the drug's label. Health Canada also issued warnings about its potential side-effects in people with diabetes.

The company has warned the antibiotic should not be used by diabetics, and noted the elderly and people with kidney disease are more prone to complications.

Health Canada is aware of the company's announcement, a spokesman for the department said.

The Canadian regulator has recommended alternative antibiotics for people with diabetes, and asked for more safety data on Tequin to update warnings on the product.

On Monday, the U.S. public interest group Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to order a recall of Tequin.

In its petition, the group said that since June 1, 2000, 388 patients have been affected by blood-sugar irregularities associated with the drug. That figure included 20 deaths and 159 hospitalizations.

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