Texas, Arkansas lawsuits allege antibiotic caused tendon damage

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Dec. 3, 2009, 7:16am

TEXARKANA, Ark. -- An antibiotic, sold since 1997, is the subject of three new lawsuits recently filed in East Texas and West Arkansas which argue the drug causes a higher incidence of tendon injuries.

Levaquin, a broad spectrum fluoroquinolone antibiotic is marketed as a first-line therapy for common bronchitis and sinusitis infections.

It is also approved for use in treatment of various upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, prostatitis and other bacterial infections. The lawsuits allege that the higher rate of injuries is notable in people over the age of 60 who are on corticosteroid therapy.

Wilson "Bill" Ramsey Jr. filed suit against Johnson and Johnson, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development LLC on Nov. 18 in the Sherman Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

A suit had been filed Oct. 26 in the Sherman Division by plaintiff Lynn Hankins.

Tommy and Tess Burke filed suit on Nov. 17 in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

The lawsuits claim that "Levaquin- induced tendon injury involves the degradation of the tendon tissue, leading to severe and permanent injuries."

Causes of action filed against the defendants include negligence; strict product liability for manufacturing and/or design defect and for failure to warn; breach of express and implied warranties for the design, manufacture, production, testing, study, inspection, labeling, marketing, advertising, sales, promotion and distribution of the drug; fraud; unjust enrichment; and violation of consumer protection laws.

The complaint argues that Levaquin is in a class of antibiotics, fluoroquinolones, which are associated with serious side effects.

Previous drugs within this class have been removed from the market, the suit states.

Although the drug contained a warning regarding the risks of tendon injury and rupture – including a warning about increased risks while using corticosteroids – the lawsuits argue that the labeling was not specific to the elderly population until 2007.

According to court papers, 60-year-old William Ramsey Jr. began using the drug in 2007 for a sinus infection. Less than two weeks after taking Levaquin, Ramsey claims he began to experience extreme pain in both arms. After several months of treatments for tennis elbow and tendonitis, Ramsey received cortisone injections.

Ramsey was prescribed Levaquin again in 2008 for allergies. Ten days later, Ramsey's muscles and triceps tendons in both arms separated.

He has undergone four unsuccessful surgeries to repair the damage. Ramsey states he is unable to use both his arms.

Fifty year old Lynn Hankins ruptured her tendon in 2007 and after surgery was prescribed Levaquin to prevent infection. According to her lawsuit, the surgery failed and the tendon ruptured. Hankins states she has need six surgeries in an attempt to repair the tendon but so far all have been unsuccessful. Further, Hankins claims she has experienced right elbow pain needing medical attention.

Tess Burke was prescribed Levaquin in 2006 and alleges that as a result she suffered damage to tendons in her legs. Burke claims she is unable to perform normal daily tasks and her quality of life has diminished.

She is seeking damages for medical expense, economic losses, lost income, permanent disability, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.

Ramsey and Hankins are seeking damages for medical expenses, loss of income, permanent disability, physical pain, mental anguish and physical impairment.

Ramsey and Hankins are represented by Dallas attorney Barrett W. Stetson and Thomas P. Moynihan. The Burkes are represented by Little Rock attorney Jim Jackson.

The cases will be transferred as "tag along" cases to the multi district litigation pending in Minnesota (MDL 1943). U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim is presiding over the multi-district cases. When pretrial and discovery is concluded the cases will be transferred back to the original districts for trial.

Ramsey Case No 4:09cv00564
Hankins Case No 4:09cv00530
Burke Case No 09:4124

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