Four new Levaquin suits, representing twenty plaintiffs, have been filed in Illinois state court against the makers of the popular antibiotic, alleging that the risk of tendon ruptures was downplayed and inadequate warnings were provided.
Three of the cases were filed on September 2 in the Third Judicial Circuit Court in Madison County, Ill., and the fourth case was filed the same day in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court in St. Clair County, Ill. The complaints have been filed against Johnson & Johnson, and their subsidiary, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., which manufactured Levaquin, as well as Walgreen Co., which sold the drug.
The complaints contain allegations that are similar to hundreds of other suits over Levaquin filed in state and federal courts throughout the country by individuals who claim to have suffered severe tendonitis or tendon ruptures from Levaquin. The drug makers have been accused of negligence and failure to warn, with plaintiffs claiming that the defendants knew for years that Levaquin side effects cause tendon problems, but attempted to manipulate data and hide the risk.
Levaquin (levofloxacin), which is part of a class of medications known as fluoroquinolones, was approved by the FDA in December 1996. It is prescribed to prevent infection by stopping the reproduction of bacteria, but has also been found to be toxic to the tendons, leading to a number of reports of tendon damage, including debilitating ruptures of 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.
All federal Levaquin lawsuits have been consolidated into an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized for pretrial litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The first trial for a Levaquin lawsuit in the MDL is scheduled to begin in August 2010.
A number of Levaquin cases have also been filed in New Jersey state court, where the lawsuits were afforded mass tort treatment under Judge Carol Higbee in Atlantic County Superior Court because of the large number of complaints filed involving nearly identical allegations.