Fluoroquinolones (Levaquin and Avelox)

Fluoroquinolones (FLQs) are a commonly prescribed type of antibiotic. Initially developed to treat serious, life-threatening infections, FLQs are now widely prescribed for routine infections such as ear and urinary tract. The most commonly prescribed fluoroquinolones are levofloxacin (brand name Levaquin) and moxifloxacin (brand name Avelox).

Although manufacturers of FLQs like Levaquin and Avelox represented that the drugs were a good first-line therapy for both serious and non-serious bacterial infections, studies have linked FLQs with severe nerve and tendon damage and a risk of developing permanent peripheral neuropathy. Additionally patients have been known to develop tolerance levels for FLQs, which can require higher doses to combat infections and may increase the risk of serious FLQ side effects.

FLQs and permanent peripheral neuropathy

In 2003, after numerous reports of patients developing symptoms of long-lasting peripheral neuropathy, the FDA began an investigation into the matter. Peripheral neuropathy is a serious condition that can cause chronic pain, organ damage, sensory problems, muscle weakness, and permanent disability. In 2004 peripheral neuropathy warnings were added to many of the antibiotics such as Levaquin however the warnings suggested that the problems were “rare” and failed to disclose that users may be left with permanent nerve damage.

FLQs and the link to tendon damage

An investigation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s adverse events database found 262 cases of ruptured tendons among patients taking FLQs between 1997 and 2005. Sixty percent of these cases were associated with the drug Levaquin. Ruptured tendons and other tendon damage can limit motion and increase the difficulty of day-to-day activities.

Studies suggest the damage could come from mitochondrial toxicity, a condition in which the mitochondria in the body deteriorate after being effectively poisoned by the antibiotic. The FDA detailed its concerns about FLQ mitochondrial toxicity in a 2013 report, but did not require pharmaceutical manufacturers to include the information on new warning labels. All of the top-selling FLQs have since received the FDA’s strictest warning label, the “black box” label.

FLQs and over-prescribing

Doctors have expressed concerns about the over-prescribing of drugs like Levaquin and Avelox to treat infections that do not require such powerful antibiotics. Nearly 29 million prescriptions for the drugs were given out in 2011 alone. The FDA has warned that as many as half of the FLQ prescriptions could be unnecessary because they are written for viral conditions that can’t be treated with antibiotics, such as the flu. One report published in the BioMed Central Infectious Diseases journal found that at a Cleveland hospital, roughly one-third of the 227 prescriptions written for an FLQ antibiotic were unnecessary.

FLQs and other adverse events

More than 200,000 fluoroquinolone adverse events were reported to the FDA, including 3,000 deaths related to the antibiotics. Of those reported adverse events, 80,000 cases including over 1,000 deaths were associated with Levaquin alone. Levaquin has the third-highest number of reported adverse events of all prescriptions medications in the FDA’s database. In addition to tendon damage and peripheral neuropathy, patients that were prescribed a FLQ have reported side effects such as cognitive issues and convulsions.

Filing a fluoroquinolone lawsuit

If you or a loved one experienced peripheral neuropathy, tendon damage or other serious side effects from antibiotics such as Levaquin or Avelox, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Contact the Levaquin lawyers at Hissey Kientz, LLP for a free case evaluation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-866-275-4454, or by filling out our free contact form on the right of this page.

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