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Antibiotic Nerve Damage Lawsuits Centralized in MDL


August 17, 2015 — Federal judges have centralized dozens of lawsuits involving antibiotic-induced nerve damage into a Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2642).

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) issued an order (PDF) transferring 78 lawsuits pending in 38 different district courts into one federal court in Minnesota.

The litigation will be overseen by U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim, who also presided over another Levaquin MDL involving around 2,000 lawsuits from people who experienced tendon ruptures.

The lawsuits involve fluoroquinolone antibiotics, such as Levaquin and Avelox. The manufacturers, Bayer HealthCare and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, are accused of failing to provide adequate warnings about peripheral neuropathy on the label.

The JPML does not normally centralize lawsuits on an industry-wide basis, but decided it was appropriate in this case because all of the lawsuits involve similar allegations. Centralization also helps improve efficiency, reduce costs, and eliminates the risk of conflicting rulings in different courts.

Janssen and Bayer opposed centralization. They said plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed because peripheral neuropathy has been on the label since 2004. Plaintiffs say those warnings were misleading and inaccurate because they reassured patients that peripheral neuropathy was “rare” and would go away when the drug was discontinued.

In 2001, a study published by the Annals of Pharmacotherapy found that most patients who developed peripheral neuropathy still had symptoms after one year. In 2013, the FDA ordered drug-makers to emphasize that peripheral neuropathy could occur rapidly and cause irreversible nerve damage.

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