Have you taken Levaquin? Learn what to look out for and how to know if you have side effects
Written by: Enjuris Editors
Levaquin is a widely-prescribed antibiotic, but its risks can outweigh the benefits. Find out what the most severe side effects are and why there are thousands of lawsuits pending for this dangerous drug.
Levaquin (generic name: levofloxacin) is an antibiotic that has been the subject of many lawsuits because of its many side effects. It’s part of the antibiotic class fluoroquinolone and is frequently prescribed to treat bacterial infections involving the prostate, bladder, kidneys, sinuses, or skin. It can also be used for treatment of bacterial pneumonia and bronchitis, and is effective against exposure to anthrax and plague. Cipro (ciprofloxacin) is another commonly used fluoroquinolone antibiotic.
Levaquin and other fluoroquinolones are extremely valuable to physicians because they’re effective as broad-spectrum antibiotics that treat the most severe infections. When a patient has a severe, life-threatening infection, a doctor might determine that Levaquin is the best chance for survival and its benefits outweigh the risks.
But if you’re diagnosed with a sinus infection, UTI, or another mild infection, consider asking your doctor if there’s a safer alternative.
What are the side effects of Levaquin?
Levaquin lawsuits arise because the drug, along with other fluoroquinolone antibiotics, increases the risk of an aortic aneurysm. An aortic aneurysm is when a bulge forms in the artery that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body. This could cause either a dissection or rupture, meaning the artery is either split or bursts, which can be fatal.
The other major issue associated with Levaquin is tendon damage. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed hundreds of reported cases of tendon rupture, tendinitis, and related injuries. For many people who experienced tendon injury, it’s the Achilles tendon (in the heel of the foot), but Levaquin is also reported to cause ruptures in the rotator cuff (shoulder), biceps, hands, and thumb.
There are a variety of other Levaquin side effects, too. These include:
Minor Levaquin Side Effects
Serious Levaquin Side Effects
Urinary tract infection
Acute bacterial sinusitis
Chronic prostate infection
Emotional or mood changes
Skin swelling or redness
Septicemic and pneumonic plague
Swelling or pain in hands, shoulders, and legs
Upper respiratory tract infections
Levaquin FDA warnings
In 2016, the FDA issued a “black box warning” about Levaquin. A black box warning appears on a prescription drug label and is designed to call attention to a serious risk, similar to the Surgeon General warnings you might be familiar with on cigarettes and alcohol.
When you see a @US_FDA “black box warning” on medication, pay attention! It highlights risks of serious side effects that could be life-threatening. Tweet this
The Levaquin warning was first issued in 2008, but was intensified by the FDA in 2016. The 2008 warning involved the risk for developing nerve damage, tendon ruptures, and tendinitis. The later warning was directed toward long-term risks. The FDA issued a stronger warning in late 2018, indicating that “...fluoroquinolone antibiotics can increase the occurrence of rare but serious events of ruptures or tears in the main artery of the body, called the aorta. These tears, called aortic dissections, or ruptures of an aortic aneurysm can lead to dangerous bleeding or even death.”
Additional label changes were required by the FDA in 2018 because of strengthened warnings about risks of “mental health side effects and serious blood sugar disturbances.”
Manufacturer Johnson & Johnson settled its first major Levaquin lawsuit in 2010. The plaintiff in that case was awarded $1.8 million in damages for a tendon rupture. It ultimately settled 845 related lawsuits that year.
There are thousands of Levaquin lawsuits still pending, most of which are because of its link to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), which is a serious skin disease that can become fatal, or peripheral neuropathy.
In each Levaquin lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim they took the drug as prescribed by their doctor, and heeded the warnings on the label, but the warnings weren’t clear enough with respect to the frequency and severity of side effects.
Can a doctor still prescribe Levaquin?
Yes, a doctor can still prescribe Levaquin. Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, discontinued Levaquin in December 2017, though it remains on pharmacy shelves and might still be available until 2020. However, the FDA required new labels for fluoroquinolone antibiotics including Levaquin, Cipro, and Avelox that offer more prominent warnings about the mental health side effects.
Enjuris tip: Be an informed patient! It’s hard to do your research “in the moment” when you’re at the doctor or pharmacy, but if your diagnosis isn’t an emergency, ask questions about why the physician chose the particular treatment or medication. If it’s a minor infection, find out what’s the most conservative drug that will still treat the illness.
If your doctor prescribes Levaquin, inquire whether it’s the best option for you. Ultimately, it might depend on the severity and nature of your infection. Sometimes, a doctor will prescribe Levaquin for a minor infection if the patient has allergies to other antibiotics. But knowing the risks and being your own advocate can go a long way toward protecting your health.
What to do if you’ve experienced Levaquin side effects
A Levaquin lawsuit might be an option if you’ve experienced serious Levaquin side effects. The Enjuris Law Firm Directory is a great place to start exploring your legal options with a knowledgeable defective product attorney injury.