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Dangerous Drug Issues: Antibiotics and Nerve Damage

Defective Drugs

Antibiotics are among the most common—and most important—medications used in modern society. They are used to prevent and treat an extremely broad range of infections, many of which present life-threatening risks. Unfortunately, like other types of medicines, antibiotics also present some risks of their own. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified a risk of nerve damage associated with fluoroquinolones.

Understanding the Nerve Damage Risks Associated with Fluoroquinolones

Fluoroquinolones are a class of antibiotic drugs used to treat certain types of bacterial infections. There are several brand-name and generic fluoroquinolones on the market, including levofloxacin (Levaquin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), moxifloxacin (Avelox), and delafloxacin (Baxdela). While these antibiotics serve important purposes, studies have shown that they also present a high risk of nerve damage for patients.

This risk led the FDA to require safety label changes for fluoroquinolones in July 2018 and to issue a warning about the unnecessary use of fluoroquinolones a short time later. The safety label changes related to the mental health side effects associated with fluoroquinolones (among others). As stated by the FDA:

“The new class-wide labeling changes will require that the mental health side effects be listed separately from other central nervous system side effects and be consistent across the labeling of the fluoroquinolone class. The mental health side effects to be included in the labeling across all the fluoroquinolones are disturbances in attention, disorientation, agitation, nervousness, memory impairment and delirium.”

Likewise, the FDA’s warning that followed shortly after the safety label changes focused on fluoroquinolones’ effects on the central nervous system among other parts of the body:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising that the serious side effects associated with fluoroquinolone antibacterial drugs generally outweigh the benefits for patients with acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections who have other treatment options. . . .

“An FDA safety review has shown that fluoroquinolones when used systemically (i.e. tablets, capsules, and injectable) are associated with disabling and potentially permanent serious side effects that can . . . involve the . . . central nervous system.”

The link between fluoroquinolones and nerve damage is not new. In fact, nerve damage has been listed as a side effect of fluoroquinolones since 2004. Specifically, the risk of peripheral neuropathy for patients given fluoroquinolones has long been well-established; and, back in 2013, WebMD recorded, “reports of long-lasting nerve damage,” among patients administered these antibiotics. Lawsuits filed on behalf of patients who were diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy after receiving fluoroquinolones have alleged that the drug companies knew about the risks associated with these antibiotics as far back as the early 1990s.

Peripheral Neuropathy Linked to Fluoroquinolones (Antibiotics)

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition characterized by damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. While peripheral neuropathy is rarely life-threatening, it can have life-altering effects, as patients will often experience a wide range of painful and uncomfortable symptoms. For example, patients who experience peripheral neuropathy after taking fluoroquinolones will frequently complain of symptoms such as:

  • Burning
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to touch or temperature
  • Spasms
  • Tingling
  • Weakness  

While peripheral neuropathy is treatable, there is currently no known cure. As a result, over the course of a patient’s lifetime, peripheral neuropathy triggered by antibiotics can become incredibly expensive. Fortunately, patients diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and other forms of nerve damage after being administered or prescribed fluoroquinolones will be able to pursue dangerous drug claims in many cases.

Dangerous Drug Claims Involving Nerve Damage from Antibiotics

As mentioned above, several lawsuits have already been filed on behalf of patients diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy linked to fluoroquinolones. These lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Bayer and Merck & Co., which are the companies that manufacture Avelox, Cipro and Levaquin.

Dangerous drug claims are governed by the law of strict liability. Under this law, drug manufacturers can be held liable for selling dangerous drugs without evidence of negligence or intentional misconduct. If a manufacturer sells a drug and it turns out the drug is dangerous, then the manufacturer is liable. This law, which also applies to other types of dangerous and defective product claims, is designed to ensure that patients have access to the financial resources they need when their medications cause them harm.

In addition to strict liability claims, patients may have other grounds to pursue claims against drug manufacturers related to nerve damage caused by antibiotics as well. For example, in appropriate cases, patients can pursue claims alleging that:

  • Drug manufacturers knew, or should have known, about the nerve damage risks associated with fluoroquinolones;
  • Drug manufacturers failed to disclose known nerve damage risks associated with fluoroquinolones; and/or
  • Drug manufacturers continued to market their antibiotics as safe and effective despite knowing the risks of nerve damage.

But, even though patients potentially have several grounds to pursue claims against companies like Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Bayer and Merck & Co. for selling dangerous antibiotics, this does not mean that filing a successful claim is easy. These companies’ defense lawyers vigorously dispute patients’ claims; and, as a result, patients need experienced legal representation.

What To Do if You Have Suffered Nerve Damage Caused By an Antibiotic

With all of this in mind, if you have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy or another form of nerve damage after taking an antibiotic, you should seek legal representation promptly. You will want to speak with a lawyer who has significant experience handling dangerous drug cases against major manufacturers. An experienced lawyer will be able to provide a comprehensive and straightforward assessment of your legal rights and will be able to seek just compensation on your behalf if warranted.

Contact Us for a Free Initial Consultation

Do you need to know more about filing a dangerous drug claim related to nerve damage caused by a fluoroquinolone or other antibiotic? If so, we encourage you to get in touch. Please call 800-780-8607 or contact us online to arrange a free initial consultation.

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