Respiratory fluoroquinolone antibiotics are some of the most common medications with QT interval–prolonging potential prescribed to patients with hemodialysis-dependent kidney failure—individuals who have a very high risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD). To date, there have been no large-scale, population-specific studies evaluating the cardiac safety of respiratory fluoroquinolones in the hemodialysis population.
Objective To investigate the cardiac safety of respiratory fluoroquinolones among individuals with hemodialysis-dependent kidney failure.
Design, Setting, and Participants A retrospective cohort study examining safety using an active comparator new-user design was conducted using administrative claims data from a US-wide kidney failure registry from January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2016, including 264 968 Medicare beneficiaries receiving in-center maintenance hemodialysis. Data analysis was performed from January 4 to August 16, 2021.
Exposures Respiratory fluoroquinolone (levofloxacin or moxifloxacin) vs amoxicillin-based (amoxicillin or amoxicillin with clavulanic acid) antibiotic treatment.
Main Outcomes and Measures Sudden cardiac death within 5 days of outpatient initiation of a study antibiotic. Inverse probability of treatment-weighted survival models to estimate hazard ratios (HRs), risk differences (RDs), and corresponding 95% CIs. Death due to a cause other than SCD was treated as a competing event. Fracture was considered as a negative control outcome.
Results The study cohort included 264 968 unique in-center hemodialysis patients and 626 322 study antibiotic treatment episodes: 251 726 respiratory fluoroquinolone treatment episodes (40.2%) and 374 596 amoxicillin-based treatment episodes (59.8%). Of the 264 968 patients, 135 236 (51.0%) were men, and the mean (SD) age was 61 (15) years. Respiratory fluoroquinolone vs amoxicillin-based antibiotic treatment was associated with a higher relative and absolute 5-day risk of SCD (weighted HR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.57-2.41; and weighted RD per 100 000 treatment episodes, 44.0; 95% CI, 31.0-59.2). Respiratory fluoroquinolone vs amoxicillin-based antibiotic treatment was not associated with the 5-day risk of fracture.
Conclusions and Relevance In this study, compared with amoxicillin-based antibiotic treatment, respiratory fluoroquinolone treatment was associated with a higher short-term risk of SCD among patients with hemodialysis-dependent kidney failure. This finding suggests that decisions between the use of respiratory fluoroquinolones and amoxicillin-based antibiotics should be individualized, with prescribers considering both the clinical benefits and potential cardiac risks.