Despite how often antibiotics are prescribed for multitudes of reasons every day, some types of antibiotics have potentially dangerous side effects. The most risky types of antibiotics are generally those belonging to the fluoroquinolone family. Levofloxacin (often referred to as Levaquin) and ciprofloxacin (often referred to as Cipro)—both fluoroquinolones—are two of the drugs most commonly regarded as to having some of the most serious adverse side effects among all drugs. Avelox is the name of another fluoroquinolone that can have dangerous side effects.
Year after year, cases of serious, incurable impairments and even deaths are reported as a result of side effects from taking these three drugs, yet the drugs remain on the market and the FDA remains stubbornly silent regarding the matter. Why is that?
The answer to that question largely lies with that fact that physicians are often unaware of just how dangerous these side effects can be or do not pay close attention to the changes in FDA warnings. According to data accessible at RxISK.org which is an independently-ran research site, reported medical conditions that result from adverse side effects from fluoroquinolones far exceed those reported that result from all other types of antibiotics. Over 79,000 cases have been linked to Cipro alone. This includes over 1,700 deaths during the last 10 years.
The Realities of Warning Labels
In the grand scheme of things, the above numbers still look slight when compared to how many prescriptions physicians write for fluoroquinolones on a regular basis. Millions of prescriptions are handed out every year for these drugs. Many physicians simply feel that antibiotics are a safe, generalized approach to curing many ailments and hand out prescriptions unnecessarily. Many others fail to tell their patients about the array of negative possible side effects.
The vast majority of physicians also rarely take initiative when it comes to reporting side effects to the FDA. This often results in data points that are largely inaccurate and/or difficult to prove. According to this editorial written by health writer Idelle Davidson, there is currently a study starting up at University of California at San Diego which may help researchers gain a better idea of how fluoroquinolone-based side effect symptoms progress and how the FDA can better inform patients and physicians regarding these side effects.
According to the FDA, all warning labels currently placed on both Levaquin and Cipro display all of the information patients need to be aware of. All fluoroquinolones carry a warning with a black border, in fact, which is the FDA’s strongest grade of warning. Problems often arise when physicians don’t inform patients about the seriousness of these warnings and fail to take factors like age and current joint/tendon health into consideration.
One of the largest issues with injuries caused by side effects from taking fluoroquinolones is the fact that many of the injuries related to taking the drugs are permanent. Irreversible tendon ruptures and nerve damage top the list of serious ailments caused by fluoroquinolones and can cause lifelong pain and suffering. Other adverse side effects include disorientation, convulsions, anxiety, cognitive disorders, and difficulty breathing/walking. Many of the cognitive issues caused from adverse side effects are also irreversible.
Ending the Silence
The fact that many of the most serious side effects caused by fluoroquinolones are irreversible should be cause for concern among physicians and patients alike, especially when other families of antibiotics have a safer track record and potentially cause side effects that are easily curable. When Idelle Davidson interviewed Beatrice Golomb, a professor of medicine at UCSD, Golomb said the following:
“It’s true that every antibiotic class has the potential for some problems, but in many cases they are curable. These people seem to be left with a life-altering situation from which many years out they haven’t recovered. The reason we should care is that many of these problems are needless sources of permanent, horrifying, life-altering effects that did not need to happen.”
Quotes like this are why UCSD feels the fluoroquinolone study is so important. Studies can lead to cold, hard facts that will help the FDA and physicians become more informed. This, in turn, will help patients become more informed and may lead to other antibiotics being prescribed more often in place of Levaquin, Cipro, and Avelox. With knowledge comes a possibility of an end to silence on the matter.
One other way to end the silence regarding the dangers of fluoroquinolone-based antibiotics is by taking legal action against the manufacturers of these drugs that fail to make the side effects of their drugs better known. At least 3,400 cases have been filed against Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Levaquin, since 2006. Most cases claimed the company failed to adequately warn physicians regarding the risks of tendon-related injuries.
Currently, there are roughly 60 pending federal cases against Johnson & Johnson as well as against Bayer, the manufacturer of both Cipro and Avelox. The plaintiffs claim the drugs caused irreversible peripheral neuropathy and/or nerve damage and were sold without proper warning labels depicting those risks. All of these cases have now been combined in what is known as an MDL, or Multi-district litigation. The MDL, known as In Re Fluoroquinolone Products Liability Litigation MDL 262, will be heard in front of Judge John Tunheim in the District of Minnesota. A copy of the transfer Order is attached 2015-8-17 In Re Fluoroquinolone MDL Transfer Order.
Lawsuits like these can’t cure irreversible nerve or tendon damage, unfortunately, and they cannot take away years of pain. But they can help these drug manufacturers realize that their products are causing serious harm and many physicians do not realize how much harm they’re causing. In time, these drugs may even be taken off the market if enough cases are successfully filed.
If you or someone you know has suffered from personal injuries you feel may be related to side effects caused by Levaquin, Cipro, Avelox, or any of the drugs on this list, contact Thomas Law Offices today to see how we can be of assistance. It’s time to put an end to the silence regarding the dangers of antibiotics.