Levaquin Maker Accused of Downplaying Tendon Risks

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Levaquin maker, Johnson & Johnson, is being criticized for allegedly downplaying one of the antibiotic’s serious side effects. Yesterday, during opening statements in the first Levaquin trial to proceed in a New Jersey mass tort, the plaintiffs’ attorney accused Johnson & Johnson of downplaying Levaquin’s association with tendon injuries.

In his opening remarks, Andres F. Alonso, a partner with the national law firm of Parker Waichmann Alonso LLP, said that Johnson & Johnson minimized Levaquin’s risks on its warning labels, even after receiving reports about tendon ruptures from Europe, according to Bloomberg News report. Mr. Alonso is the attorney for Paul Gaffney (67) and Robert Beare (72), who both allege their Achilles-tendon injuries were brought on after taking Levaquin.

“J&J officials knew there was a problem and did everything they could to hide it” to protect sales, said Mr. Alonso, speaking to the jury in opening statements in Atlantic City, New Jersey, today, reported Bloomberg News.

Gaffney and Beare were treated with Levaquin for sinus infections, Mr. Alonso told the jury. Both developed severe Achilles-tendon injuries that caused them to be unable to walk. Both men required surgery, noted Bloomberg News. The drug maker, said Mr. Alonso, never placed a prominent warning about Levaquin’s label concerning tendon risks. Rather, Johnson & Johnson downplayed the risks of the drug, even hiring ghostwriters to hype Levaquin’s safety and efficacy in medical articles, said Mr. Alonso.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Levaquin in 1996 as an antibiotic for the treatment of a number of infections. The FDA mandated that Levaquin and other drugs the same class of antibiotics be relabeled in 2008 to include a Black Box warning—it’s most serious—concerning tendon injuries.

Since then, just over 3,000 Levaquin tendon injury lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts around the country.  The Gaffney-Beare lawsuit is the first of more than 1,700 to go to trial in a New Jersey mass tort currently pending before Judge Carol Higbee of Atlantic County.

More than 1,300 more Levaquin tendon injury lawsuits are pending in a multidistrict litigation in federal court in Minnesota.  Two lawsuits have gone to trial there, one ending with a $1.8 million verdict for the plaintiff, and the second a win for Johnson & Johnson.  A third trial is slated to start in November.