Johnson & Johnson and Bayer Among Defendants In Nerve Damage MDL Bid
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Johnson & Johnson and Bayer Among Defendants In Nerve Damage MDL Bid

Levaquin and lawsuits related to similar medications are seeking certification into multidistrict litigation before the JPML.

Sunday, May 31, 2015 - 24 lawsuits filed in 16 federal courts around the country are appealing to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to have their claims relating to nerve damage caused by antibiotics certified into an MDL before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The lawsuits name a number of large pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, Bayer and Merck & Co., of failing to warn patients of the risks for potential nerve damage involved with taking prescription antibiotics Avelox, Cipro and Levaquin.

All the drugs at issue named in the MDL are part of the family of medications called fluoroquinolones that are taken to perform quinolone peripheral neuropathy. The alleged side effects from these drugs named in the lawsuits directly affect the central nervous system and make it difficult for messages to be sent between the mind and the body. The peripheral neuropathy side effects cause a laundry list of complications for those suffering from the condition, which includes burning and tingling throughout the body, sensory debilitation and progressive muscle weakness.

The severe side effects named in the lawsuit are a result of complications related to quinolone peripheral neuropathy, which is used to treat many conditions including pneumonia and bacterial infections. The drugs were first approved by the FDA in 1996, and have been a popular choice in the medical field. Johnson & Johnson took in more than $1.3 billion in revenue in 2011 from their quinolone peripheral neuropathy drug Levaquin. The drug has been available in its generic form since 2011.

Johnson & Johnson manufactures the premier antibiotics created to treat the condition with their drug Levaquin. Similar drugs created by other companies include Avelox and Cipro, and all are included in the MDL lawsuits for the complications caused by the medications' side effects. The FDA sent a drug safety communication in 2013 in order to bolster the warning labels affixed to the fluoroquinolones. A warning label had already been added to the drugs in 2008 when Levaquin was proven to cause tendonitis and in some instances tendon rupture. The latest warning focused on the nerve damage mentioned previously.

Some doctors have called for additional warnings to be added to those already decreed by the FDA. There have been requests for black box warnings in relation to fluoroquinolonesm as additional alleged symptoms of the quinolone peripheral neuropathy include Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's disease and serious liver complications. Death has even been reported in some cases due to a lethal build up of lactic acid caused by a condition named lactic acidosis.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that manufacturers of these drugs should have known about the severe side effects the medications brought with them and alerted consumers as to the dangers of going through quinolone peripheral neuropathy. There are also allegations that claim the extent of the warnings, once demanded by the FDA, fell short of the severity needed. One case claims that Johnson & Johnson told a patient suffering through the side effects that they were temorary and would fade after finishing their prescription. This patient ended up enduring permanent nerve damage that did not ease after finishing her Levaquin medication.

The plaintiffs await a pending decision from the JPML as to whether their cases will be consolidated into an MDL, and where they may be centralized if a class certification takes place.

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