The antibiotic Levaquin has been associated with an increased risk of heart problems, aortic aneurysms, nerve damage, and more. The manufacturer is facing hundreds of lawsuits for failing to warn about side effects.
What is Levaquin?
Levaquin (levofloxacin) is a broad-spectrum antibiotic in the fluoroquinolone class. It is manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and it has been on the market in the United States since 1996.
What Does Levaquin Treat?
- Community-acquired pneumonia
- Acute bacterial sinusitis
- Acute bacterial exacerbation of chronic bronchitis
- Inhalation anthrax
- Skin and skin structure infections
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis
- Urinary tract infections
- And more
Levaquin and Heart Problems
In September 2019, a study found an increased risk of heart valve damage from Levaquin and other fluoroquinolone antibiotics. These heart valve side effects (called “aortic or mitral valve regurgitation”) occur when the valves do not close completely. They leak blood backward whenever the heart pumps, forcing the heart to work harder. Over time, heart valve problems can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and other life-threatening cardiovascular side effects.
Levaquin and Aortic Aneurysms
Levaquin can damage tissues in the wall of the aorta, which is the largest blood vessel in the body. In some patients (particularly those with high blood pressure), a weak spot in the aorta bulges outward until it suddenly rips open and causes massive internal bleeding. This is called an aortic aneurysm or “aortic dissection.” The FDA added this side effect to the label on Levaquin in December 2018.
Levaquin and Nerve Damage
Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur rapidly (within hours or days of the first dose of Levaquin) and cause permanent complications. The symptoms include numbness, tingling, pain, burning or muscle weakness in the arms or legs, or sensory changes (texture, temperature, etc.).
Levaquin Nerve Damage Lawsuits
Hundreds of lawsuits involving Levaquin-induced nerve damage have been centralized into a Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2642) in Minnesota. Janssen Pharmaceuticals is now facing over 1,000 lawsuits involving fluoroquinolone antibiotics from victims all over the United States.
Levaquin Black Box Warning for Tendon Injuries
Levaquin carries a boxed warning about the risk of tendon injuries. These injuries primarily affect the Achilles tendon in the heel, but they can occur in any part of the body. Tendons are fibrous tissues that connect the muscles to bones.
Levaquin Side Effects
The most common side effects of Levaquin include nausea, headache, diarrhea, insomnia, constipation, and dizziness. More serious side effects include:
- Heart failure
- Heart valve problems
- Aortic valve / mitral valve regurgitation
- Heart attack
- Hospitalization for heart problems within 60 days of taking Cipro
- Aortic aneurysm (aortic dissection)
- Nerve damage
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS)
- Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis
- Tendon pain, swelling, rupture, and inflammation
- Serious allergic reactions
- Liver damage (hepatotoxicity)
- Central Nervous System (CNS) effects
- Intestinal infections
- Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
- Heart rhythm changes
- Joint problems in children
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity)
- And more
FDA Strengthens Warnings for Levaquin
In 2016, he FDA updated labels on Levaquin to warn that the risk of disabling side effects outweighs its benefit for treating minor infections. Risks include tendon problems, muscle and joint pain, nerve damage, confusion, hallucinations, and more.