How Prescription Antibiotics Can Kill You


Antibiotics Put 142,000 Into Emergency Rooms Each Year

U.S. Centers for Disease Control Waits 60 Years to Study the Problem

(OMNS, October 13, 2008) The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just released "the first report ever done on adverse reactions to antibiotics in the United States" on 13 Aug, 2008. (1) This is "the first report ever"? How is that possible? Antibiotics have been widely used since the 1940s. It is astounding that it has taken CDC so long to seriously study the side effects of these drugs. It is now apparent that there have been decades of an undeserved presumption of safety.

Antibiotics can put you in the emergency room. Common antibiotics, the ones most frequently prescribed and regarded as safest, cause nearly half of emergencies due to antibiotics. And, incredibly enough, people in the prime of life - not babies - are especially at risk. The study authors reported that "Persons aged 15-44 years accounted for an estimated 41.2 percent of emergency department visits. Infants accounted for only an estimated 6.3 percent of ED visits." They also found that nearly 80% of antibiotic-caused "adverse events" were allergic reactions. Overdoses and mistakes, by patients and by physicians, make up the rest.

Allergic reactions to antibiotics may be very serious, including life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Searching the US National Library of Medicine's "Medline" database (2) for "antibiotic allergic reaction" will bring up over 9,700 mentions in scientific papers. A search for "antibiotic anaphylactic shock" brings up over 1,100. Many papers on this severe danger were actually published before 1960. (3) Given this amount of accumulated information, one might wonder why CDC took so long to seriously study the problem.

Overuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance. At its website, CDC currently states that antibiotic resistance "can cause significant danger and suffering for people who have common infections that once were easily treatable with antibiotics. . . Some resistant infections can cause death." (4)

In the USA alone, "over 3 million pounds of antibiotics are used every year on humans . . . enough to give every man, woman and child 10 teaspoons of pure antibiotics per year," write Null, Dean, Feldman, and Rasio. (5) "Almost half of patients with upper respiratory tract infections in the U.S. still receive antibiotics from their doctor" even though "the CDC warns that 90% of upper respiratory infections, including children's ear infections, are viral, and antibiotics don't treat viral infection. More than 40% of about 50 million prescriptions for antibiotics each year in physicians' offices were inappropriate."

Additionally, every year, a staggering 25 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to farm animals, most given in an attempt to prevent illness. Seepage from feedlots results in low concentrations of antibiotics in our waterways and food. This increases human antibiotic resistance. (6)

Antibiotic resistance and antibiotic allergic reactions continue to be major public health problems. Both dangers are directly related to the huge amount of antibiotics we consume. One immediate way to decrease the incidence of side effects from antibiotics is to use antibiotics less often. Reducing use "by even a small percentage could significantly reduce the immediate and direct risks of drug-related adverse events," the CDC study authors said.

Alternative, non-drug treatments can also be an answer. Robert F. Cathcart, M.D., observed that high doses of vitamin C substantially reduce the dosage of antibiotics needed to treat patients. Vitamin C also specifically counters allergic reactions. Dr. Cathcart, a practicing allergist with decades of experience, said: "Patients seemed not to develop their first allergic reaction to penicillin when they had taken bowel tolerance vitamin C for several doses. Among the several thousand patients given penicillin, two cases of brief rash were seen in patients who had taken their first dose of penicillin along with their first dose of vitamin C . . . Many patients find the effect of ascorbate more satisfactory than immunizations or antihistamines and decongestants." (7)

Back in the 1950s, physicians such as William J. McCormick, M.D., (8) and Frederick Robert Klenner, M.D., (9) found that very high doses of vitamin C can be safely and effectively used, by itself, as an antibiotic as well as an antiviral and antihistamine. Dr. McCormick wrote that vitamin C is known to "contribute to the development of antibodies and the neutralization of toxins in the building of natural immunity to infectious diseases. There is a very potent chemotherapeutic action of ascorbic acid when given in massive repeated doses, 500 to 1,000 mg (hourly), preferably intravenously or intramuscularly. When thus administered the effect in acute infectious processes is favorably comparable to that of the sulfonamides or the mycelial antibiotics, but with the great advantage of complete freedom from toxic or allergic reactions." (10)

Using more vitamin C means needing fewer antibiotics. Using vitamin C along with antibiotics reduces their side effects. Orthomolecular (nutritional) physicians have been reporting this for years. (11)

The CDC has a long and lamentable history of ignoring dangerous antibiotic side effects. And still today, CDC demonstrates a striking disinterest in nutritional alternatives to drugs. At their website, there is not a single word about the value of vitamin C in reducing the need for antibiotics, or for reducing antibiotic side effects.
A cynic might speculate that drug companies have heavy influence at the US Centers for Disease Control.
Whatever the reason, patients are the losers.
(1) Shehab N, Patel PR, Srinivasan A, Budnitz DS. Emergency department visits for antibiotic-associated adverse events. Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Sep 15;47(6):735-43.


(3) Some examples include:

Arrigo G, D'Angelo A. Achromycin and anaphylactic shock. Riv Patol Clin. 1959 Oct;14:719-22.

Harvey HP, Solomon HJ. Acute anaphylactic shock due to para-aminosalicylic acid. Am Rev Tuberc. 1958 Mar;77(3):492-5. Lythcott GI. Anaphylaxis to viomycin. Am Rev Tuberc. 1957 Jan;75(1):135-8. Farber JE, Ross J, Stephens G. Antibiotic anaphylaxis. Calif Med. 1954 Jul;81(1):9-11. Farber JE, Ross J. Antibiotic anaphylaxis; a note on the treatment and prevention of severe reactions to penicillin, streptomycin and dihydrostreptomycin. Med Times. 1952 Jan;80(1):28-30. Patterson DB. Anaphylactic shock from chloromycetin. Northwest Med. 1950 May;49(5):352-3.

(4) Accessed September 22, 2008.

(5) Null G, Dean C, Feldman M, Rasio D. Death by medicine. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 2005. Vol 20, No 1, p 21-34. Also at See also: Rabin R. Caution about overuse of antibiotics. Newsday. Sept. 18, 2003.

(6) Egger WA. Antibiotic resistance: unnatural selection in the office and on the farm. Wisconson Medical Journal. Aug. 2002.

(7) Cathcart RF. Vitamin C, titration to bowel tolerance, anascorbemia, and acute induced scurvy. Medical Hypothesis, 1981. 7:1359-1376. or

(8) Saul AW. The pioneering work of William J. McCormick, M.D. J Orthomolecular Med, 2003. Vol 18, No 2, p 93-96.

(9) Klenner FR. The use of vitamin C as an antibiotic. Journal of Applied Nutrition, 1953. 6:274-278. and

(10) McCormick WJ. Ascorbic acid as a chemotherapeutic agent. Archives of Pediatrics NY, 1952. Vol. 69, No. 4, April, p 151-155.

(11) Read full text, peer-reviewed nutritional research papers, free of charge:
For more information:

Dr. F. R. Klenner's work, summarized as "The Clinical Guide to the Use of Vitamin C," is posted in its entirety at