Levaquin, a popular antibiotic, has been linked to a doubled increased risk of nerve damage in a study published in Neurology. Experts warn that nerve damage symptoms can appear rapidly and cause permanent, debilitating side effects.
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Levaquin and Nerve Damage
Levaquin is a prescription medication manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. It belongs to a class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones.
The first case reports linking antibiotics and nerve damage were published in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2001, a study described 45 cases of antibiotic-induced nerve damage, including 33 cases linked to Levaquin. Researchers discovered:
- 80% of cases were severe and involved multiple organ systems.
- Nerve damage tended to develop rapidly (84% occurred within one week)
- Most people had long-term complications (71% lasted at least 3 months, 58% lasted at least one year)
Warnings about nerve damage were added to the label on Levaquin in 2004. However, these warnings were not adequate — the FDA continued to receive adverse event reports. In some cases, doctors did not discontinue the antibiotic in patients who had symptoms of nerve damage.
In 2013, the FDA ordered drug-makers to update the label on Levaquin to emphasize the risk of rapid and potentially permanent nerve damage. They recommended:
“Patients using fluoroquinolones who develop any symptoms of peripheral neuropathy should tell their health care professionals right away.”
One of the first lawsuits (PDF) involving Levaquin and nerve damage was filed in federal court in California in September 2014.
The plaintiff alleges that the label on Levaquin was inadequate and misleading between 2004 and 2013 because it said nerve damage was a “rare” side effect. This information was “buried at the bottom of a long list of adverse reactions,” failed to warn about permanent complications, and suggested that nerve damage could be avoided by discontinuing Levaquin when symptoms appeared. Click here to read more.
Nerve Damage Symptoms
The type of nerve damage associated with Levaquin is called peripheral neuropathy, because it affects peripheral nerves between the brain and limbs. Symptoms can occur at any time while taking Levaquin, but most cases occur within less than one week. Nerves that control muscles and sensation are usually affected.
Nerve damage symptoms:
- Tingling, pricking, burning, etc. (paresthesia)
- Loss of sense of texture or temperature (feels like wearing a thin sock)
- Abnormal sense of body position or balance
- Loss of muscle coordination or fine motor skills
- Chronic pain
- Muscle weakness
- And more
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