A Minneapolis jury has handed down a defense verdict in the second Levaquin lawsuit to go to trial involving allegations that the popular antibiotic caused a user to suffer a tendon rupture.
In a product liability lawsuit filed by Calvin Christensen, 84, a jury ruled last week that Johnson & Johnson provided adequate warnings that side effects of Levaquin may cause tendon damage.
The case is one of several thousand lawsuits over tendon ruptures from Levaquin that have been filed in courts throughout the United States against Johnson & Johnson and their Ortho McNeil Pharmaceuticals subsidiary. The plaintiffs allege that the drug makers failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the risks associated with the drug until the FDA required a “black box” warning be added in 2008.
Christensen suffered a rupture of his right Achilles tendon in 2006 after taking Levaquin for pneumonia. As a result of the tendon rupture from Levaquin, Christensen suffers from permanent instability and loss of balance, according to the lawsuit. His doctor testified that had the warnings been stronger they would have considered another antibiotic.
In December, another jury ruled that the drug makers failed to adequately warn about the risk of Levaquin tendon ruptures, and awarded the plaintiff in that case, John Schedin, $1.8 million in damages.
The two cases are part of a group of six proposed bellwether trials that have been scheduled in the federal Levaquin litigation. The early trials are designed to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weakness of their cases. The outcome of these trials may help lead to a possible Levaquin settlement agreement between the parties to avoid taking each case before a jury.
Levaquin (levofloxacin) is an antibiotic approved by the FDA in 1996 to prevent infection by stopping the reproduction of bacteria. However, it has been linked to an increased risk of tendon damage and tendon ruptures, particularly involving the Achilles tendon.
In July 2008, the FDA required that a “black box” warning be added about the side effects of Levaquin and other similar antibiotics, which is the strongest warning that can be placed on a prescription medication. However, consumer advocates called for Levaquin tendon rupture warnings to be added at least two years earlier, with Public Citizen filing a petition with the FDA in 2006, insisting that consumers and the medical community be provided with clearer warnings about the risk of tendon damage.
There are currently more than 2,500 lawsuits that have been filed on behalf of individuals throughout the United States who suffered a tendon rupture on Levaquin. Of those cases, more than 1512 are pending in New Jersey state court and about 1000 are pending in federal court, where the litigation has been centralized for pretrial preceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota before U.S. District Judge John Tunheim.