Discovery is moving forward in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, where hundreds of peripheral neuropathy lawsuits involving Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro are undergoing centralized pretrial proceedings.
Court records indicate that the multidistrict litigation’s most recent Status Conference was convened on March 28th. Among other things, the parties reported that bellwether case discovery is progressing. However, a dispute did arise over the order of physician depositions. Attorneys representing the defendants had proposed that they be able to first depose physicians in bellwether lawsuits selected by the plaintiffs, while the other side would initially depose physicians in cases selected by the defense. Plaintiff’s attorneys preferred the opposite. In the end, the Court indicated it favored the Defendant’s proposed order.
Levaquin, Cipro and Avelox belong to a class of medications called fluoroquinolone antibiotics, which are indicated to treat life-threatening bacterial infections like pneumonia. However, these drugs are also frequently prescribed to patients suffering from more routine illnesses, including ear infections and urinary tract infections.
Plaintiffs pursuing fluoroquinolone lawsuits in the District of Minnesota claim that the manufacturers of Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro have long concealed data suggesting that use of their products could result in peripheral neuropathy, a potentially permanent form of nerve damage. Among other things, their complaints point out that in 2001, the Annals of Pharmacotherapy reported that 45 fluoroquinolone patients had been diagnosed with the disorder. The vast majority of these cases (80%) where characterized as “severe,” while more than half persisted for a year or more.
In December 2004, the labels of all fluoroquinolone antibiotics were finally updated to include mention of peripheral neuropathy as a potential side effect. However, after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) determined that the labeling did not adequately describe the “potential rapid onset and permanence” of the condition, it ordered further modifications in August 2013. Among other things, statements that suggested peripheral neuropathy was a “rare” occurrence were removed from the fluoroquinolone prescribing information.
Last May, the FDA cautioned that patients suffering from acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections should not be prescribed systemic fluoroquinolone antibiotics (those administered orally or via injection) when other treatment options are available. The warning was issued after an agency review confirmed that drugs like Levaquin, Cipro and Avelox may cause permanent and potentially disabling complications affecting the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, and central nervous system.