Clark Howard on battling a life-threatening illness, ‘I felt like death’

Atlanta-based consumer advisor Clark Howard is speaking out about a mysterious and sudden illness that threatened his life recently.

The same disease killed a Georgia man after, just like Howard, taking a powerful antibiotic only days before falling ill.

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Howard was admitted to Atlanta's 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 it has happened before.

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

During his hospital stay, Howard's system was flushed out with IV's. He said a doctor with 40 years of experience determined he had rhabdomyolysis.

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

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

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

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

Howard 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?”   Howard’s cancer doctor is also his cousin. Dr. Skip Holden said Howard has had Cipro before with ill health affect and that he uses it because the risk of infection with a prostate biopsy is so great.

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Holden said he's looking for input in Howard's case and has asked doctors at UCLA Medical Center to weigh in.

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