Peripheral neuropathy is a health condition associated with damage to the nerves that connect the brain and spinal column to the rest of the body. Individuals who suffer from peripheral neuropathy usually experience symptoms in their hands or feet, including tingling, numbness, and sharp or burning pain. However, peripheral neuropathy can attack any part of the body, including glands, organs, and the digestive tract. In extreme cases, the condition may cause permanent injuries, including muscle weakness that leads to paralysis.
While peripheral neuropathy can be caused by disease or by a physical injury, a growing number of patients are discovering that their symptoms of peripheral neuropathy appeared after they began using an antibiotic in the fluoroquinolone family (such as Avelox, Cipro or Levaquin). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently required drug companies to warn consumers of the risk of taking fluoroquinolones.
Patients who took fluoroquinolone before the FDA issued its warning may be unwitting victims of the drug manufacturers’ failure to disclose the full extent of the risk. Patients who developed severe symptoms of peripheral neuropathy after taking fluoroquinolones are turning to personal injury lawyers to help them obtain the compensation they deserve for the drug companies’ failure to give them a meaningful warning of the antibiotic’s dangerous side effects.
The Over-Prescription of Fluoroquinolones
Fluoroquinolones can be the right medicine for the right condition. They have been used successfully for many years to combat a variety of bacterial infections. However, fluoroquinolones are powerful drugs — more powerful than patients may need for routine infections. A doctor who published a recent study of the side-effects of fluoroquinolones advised the FDA that “the indiscriminate prescribing of these highly potent, ‘big gun’ antibiotics for everyday minor infections such as sinusitis, sore throats, or bladder infections is unnecessary and medically unsafe.”
A number of horror stories have raised concerns that fluoroquinolones are over-prescribed. A 2002 study found that fluoroquinolones are the most commonly prescribed antibiotics in the United States. According to the FDA, fluoroquinolones were prescribed to more than 22 million patients in 2011.
The most widely marketed fluoroquinolones in the United States are Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Levaquin (levofloxacin), and Avelox (moxifloxacin). Manufacturers, including Bayer and Jannsen Pharmaceuticals, generated more than $4 billion in revenues from the worldwide sale of fluoroquinolones in 2008.
Fluoroquinolones and Peripheral Neuropathy
Drug companies have long understood that fluoroquinolones pose dangers to patients. When fluoroquinolones cross the blood-brain barrier, they can damage both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. They can also cause ruptured tendons and swollen joints.
The link between fluoroquinolones and peripheral neuropathy is well established. The connection was first reported in a 1992 article in the British medical journal The Lancet. A Swedish study in 1996 documented complaints of tingling and numbness that began after patients took fluoroquinolones. While that study noted that some patients reported long-lasting symptoms, a 2001 study established that more than half of the patients who reported symptoms of peripheral neuropathy after taking fluoroquinolones were still experiencing those side effects one year after they stopped taking the drug.
In response to growing evidence that fluoroquinolones place patients at risk of suffering from peripheral neuropathy, the FDA decided in 2004 to require drug manufacturers to warn consumers of that risk. Even after that warning was included on drug labels, evidence of the dangers of fluoroquinolones continued to mount. A comprehensive study over a ten year period, published in 2014, confirmed that patients who take fluoroquinolones face a significant risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.
FDA Action and Patients’ Reaction
The FDA maintains a database of patient complaints related to their use of prescription drugs. A review of that database persuaded the FDA that the potential harm caused by the use of fluoroquinolones was understated in the warning that it mandated in 2004. Concluding that consumers needed more information to evaluate the risks associated with the drug, the FDA required drug manufacturers to warn consumers that taking fluoroquinolones could lead to serious and potentially irreversible peripheral neuropathy.
The FDA’s action in 2013 followed its 2008 decision to force drug companies to warn patients that fluoroquinolones are associated with an increased risk of ruptured tendons. There is evidence, however, that drug manufacturers were aware that fluoroquinolones pose serious risks to patients well before the FDA required them to strengthen their warning labels.
Consumers who have experienced serious symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy after taking fluoroquinolones are asking personal injury lawyers to help them obtain compensation. Many patients who took fluoroquinolones — particularly those with minor or routine infections that could have been treated with a less dangerous class of antibiotics — would not have taken the risk of being treated with fluoroquinolones if they had been warned that potentially serious health conditions are associated with the drug.
Any patient who has suffered severe or long-term symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy after taking fluoroquinolones should consult with a personal injury lawyer who handles negligence claims against pharmaceutical companies. Patients may be entitled to compensation for their pain, suffering, disabilities, and impairments associated with peripheral neuropathy. The attorneys at Advocate Law Group have decades of experience handling product liability and personal injury claims. We work with leading product liability firms nationwide to help our clients obtain results. Contact us for a free case evaluation.