MDL Sought for Peripheral Neuropathy Lawsuits Over Levaquin, Avelox, Cipro, Other Antibiotics

With a growing number of people filing product liability lawsuits after suffering permanent peripheral neuropathy from Levaquin, Avelox, Cipro or other similar antibiotics, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has been asked to establish centralized proceedings in the federal court system. 

In a motion to transfer (PDF) filed on May 19, a group of plaintiffs ask that all Levaquin lawsuits, Avelox lawsuits, Cipro lawsuits, or other similar claims involving nerve damage following use of a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, be transferred to one judge as part of a multidistrict litigation, or MDL.

There are currently at least 24 cases pending in 16 different federal district courts involving similar allegations that manufacturers of the popular antibiotics failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the risk of permanent and long term peripheral neuropathy problems following use of the drugs.

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Peripheral neuropathy involves damage to the nerves that may impair sensation, movement and other aspects of health. This may leave users with persistent pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness and sensitivity to light touches, temperature and motion in the arms and legs, as well as other problems that cause a major disruption to daily activities.

As lawyers continue to review and file additional peripheral neuropathy lawsuits for former users of these antibiotics, it is ultimately expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of similar complaints will be filed in courts throughout the U.S.

Plaintiffs argue that centralizing the litigation before one judge will reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts. The motion calls for the cases to be consolidated before U.S. District Judge David R. Herndon in the Southern District of Illinois, who has previously presided over the Yaz litigation and Pradaxa litigation.

Permanent Peripheral Neuropathy Side Effects

Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro are among the most widely used antibiotics in the United States, which are all part of the same class of drugs, known as fluoroquinolones.

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.

Lawsuits allege that prior warnings provided with Levaquin, Avelox, Cipro and other similar drugs misleadingly suggested that reports of peripheral neuropathy among users were rare and that the nerve problems resolve when the medications are no longer used. The new label warnings indicated that the problems could be permanent and urge doctors to consider switching patients to a different class of antibiotics if they experience symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

The first indication of a possible link between long-term peripheral neuropathy and fluoroquinolone antibiotics came in a study published in 2001, which highlighted reports of 45 patients who suffered persistent peripheral nervous system damage. Plaintiffs maintain that if adequate warnings had been provided about the risk of permanent neuropathy problems, they may have avoided painful and debilitating injuries.

The U.S. JPML is likely to hear oral arguments on the motion at an upcoming hearing session in San Francisco, California that is scheduled for July 30.

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