Nerve Damage Lawsuits Certified

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The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation certified nearly two dozen lawsuits claiming that a strong antibiotic marketed by large pharmaceutical companies did not properly warn consumers of the strength of the connection between the drug and potential nerve damage.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - Roughly twenty lawsuits related to the drugs Avelox, Cipro and Levaquin were centralized into multidistrict litigation by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) following the panel‘s latest hearing session in July. The lawsuits focused on the possible links to nerve damage cause by patients taking the prescription antibiotics that the manufacturers failed to properly inform or warn potential users of when placing the medication on the market. The exact drugs in question relating to these proceedings are Levaquin (levofloxacin), Avelox (moxifloxacin) and Cipro (ciprofloxacin).

The lawsuits focus on the connection between the antibiotics named in the lawsuits and the development of peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is defined as the result of damage done to periphery nerves that causes a patient to suffer from weakness, numbness and sometimes pain. Most often, these feelings are localized in one‘s hands and feet. There have been arguments over whether patients were informed of the exact risk the antibiotics opened a patient up to in terms of their likelihood of suffering from peripheral neuropathy.

Plaintiffs in the consolidated lawsuits named Johnson & Johnson, Bayer and Merck & Co. as defendants in the multidistrict litigation filings. They claim that these companies developed the fluoroquinolone drugs without properly warning patients of the risks of peripheral neuropathy posed by the antibiotics. They claim that the warning affixed to the medication stating that the risk of suffering from peripheral neuropathy was rare did not accurately detail the level of severity with which that risk should have been taken. Many doctors have called for tougher restrictions placed on the development of and warnings about the antibiotics, though the FDA only required the companies to affix a label warning of "rare" instances of peripheral neuropathy.

The medications in question are known as fluoroquinolones, which are intended to act as heavy duty antibiotics that help fight bacterial infections. They are often used to help treat bacterial infections developed in hospitals and other environments that may make the infection resistant to ordinary antibiotics. The drugs became very popular for their effectiveness and Johnson & Johnson‘s version of the medication Levaquin made the company more than $1 billion a fiscal year at the height of its use as a prescription drug.

The lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies allege a laundry list of illegal grievance, including failure to warn, breach of warranty, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and fraudulent concealment, among others. There are claims in the lawsuits stating that Johnson & Johnson told a patient suffering from peripheral neuropathy that the symptoms would fade, another lapse in the judgement used by the company to warn consumers of the dangers associated with the drug.

After hearing presentations from both sides, the JPML ruled that the lawsuits would be certified. The panel claimed that the case shared common questions of fact and were large enough in number to benefit from the efficiency of a multidistrict litigation consolidation. The claims were centralized in the District of Minnesota federal court before the Honorable John R. Tunheim, who the panel referenced as having experience with Levaquin and drugs similar to the once at the heart of these proceedings.