Clark Howard says near-fatal disease possibly caused by popular antibiotic

ATLANTA — Consumer adviser Clark Howard is speaking out about the mysterious sudden illness that threatened his life.

The same disease killed a Gwinnett County man. He and Clark had each taken a powerful antibiotic only days before falling ill.

Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Jim Strickland exposed the side effects of the drugs 2 1/2 years ago.

Clark was admitted to Piedmont Hospital three days after taking the generic antibiotic ciprofloxacin. The brand name is Cipro.

He took it to ward off an infection after a biopsy to monitor his prostate cancer.


There's no proof that what happened next is linked to the pill, but Strickland’s research found that it's happened before.

“I felt like death,” Clark said. “It was a struggle to walk five steps.”

Clark was admitted to Piedmont and used IVs to flush his system. He said a doctor with 40 years’ experience determined he had rhabdomyolysis.

Clark Howard

“With rhabdo, your muscles are eating themselves, and then they destroy your kidneys and you die,” Clark said.

That's what happened to Gwinnett triathlete Chris Dannelly in 2013. The disease killed him in five days after he took three pills of ciprofloxacin's sister drug, levofloxacin.

Clark said Piedmont doctors have a working theory that the antibiotic combined with his cholesterol pill, was a bad mix.

“The generic Lipitor acted as a catalyst. That caused the supposed problems with Cipro to magnify and give me the rhabdomyolysis,” Clark said.


Ten months ago, doctors in Scotland published a similar case involving the two types of pills and a case of rhabdo.

Their conclusion: the consequences of this interaction can have potentially serious outcomes.

Clark said he plans to ask about a substitute pill.

“Even not knowing for sure whether Cipro was a villain in this or not, why would I want to be dead?” Clark said.

Clark's cancer doctor is also his cousin. Dr. Skip Holden said that Clark has had Cipro before with no issues and that he uses it because the risk of infection with that biopsy is so great.

He presented Clark's case to 50 other doctors at UCLA Medical Center.