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Drug manufacturers, doctors and scientists still do not know why the side effects of Avelox, Levaquin, Cipro and similar antibiotics cause a form of permanent nerve damage known as peripheral neuropathy; and a new study suggests that may be because they aren’t trying very hard.
A report published recently in the scientific journal Nature explains how there has been very little effort to examine the side effects of the class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones, despite decades of concerns and tens of thousands of adverse event reports filed with the FDA. The lack of investigation comes from a reticence to look at drugs that have already been on the market for years, as well as a very real fear of being blacklisted and discredited by pharmaceutical companies, according to the report.
In August 2013, the FDA required the makers of all fluoroquinolones to provide stronger warnings about the peripheral neuropathy risk from the antibiotics, indicating problems may last for months or years after an individual stops taking the drug. The new label now warns patients to contact their doctors and consider switching to a different class of antibiotics if they experience symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
The widely used class of antibiotics has been on the market since the 1980s, and the report indicates that there’s been relatively little interest in actually investigating if the drugs may have widespread health problems.
One potential problem that is under-researched is the risk of mitochondrial damage. Mitochondria provides power to the cells in our body, and if a drug causes mitochondrial toxicity it could theoretically impact every system in the human body, resulting in a wide array of health effects, including things like peripheral nerve damage.
But research needs funding, and going back to look at old drugs isn’t a top priority for federal agencies or universities with limited research funding streams. In addition, drug companies have blacklisted doctors in the past for conducting research that showed their drugs were linked to adverse health effects, or which got their drugs recalled.
In some cases, the companies went as far as purposefully discrediting doctors and destroying their careers, the report notes. These factors make it hard for researchers to afford or justify such research.
The FDA issued a major fluoroquinolone antibiotics warning in May 2016, due to a variety of “disabling and potentially serious side effects,” which led the agency to conclude that the risks may outweigh the benefits associated with using the medications to treat uncomplicated infections.
That warning concerned reports of permanent nerve damage, known as peripheral neuropathy, as well as tendon ruptures and other health risks.
Concerns about the risk of aortic dissection and aortic aneurysm with fluoroquinolones emerged in late 2015, following the publication of a report in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which found that current use of Levaquin, Avelox or other similar antibiotics was associated with a two-fold increased risk of suffering an aortic aneurysm or dissection injury.
Hundreds of Avelox lawsuits, Levaquin lawsuits and Cipro lawsuits have been filed in recent years, each raising similar allegations that the drug makers failed to adequately investigate the safety of their drugs or warn about the disabling side effects. Plaintiffs maintain that they may have avoided long-term and permanent peripheral neuropathy problems if adequate warnings had been provided.