Patients Seek Compensation for Aortic Aneurysms and Aortic Dissections Caused by Avelox, Levaquin, and Other Fluoroquinolones
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UPDATED: May 2, 2016
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Patients who suffered from an aortic aneurysm or an aortic dissection after taking a fluoroquinolone are asking personal injury lawyers to help them obtain the compensation they deserve. A number of studies have linked drugs like Levaquin and Avelox to serious collagen disorders, including conditions that weaken the aorta.
Before it became available generically in 2011, Levaquin was the best-selling antibiotic in the United States. It is still widely prescribed, although patients often purchase it under its generic name (levofloxacin). Another popular fluoroquinolone, Avelox, is also available in a generic form (moxifloxacin).
Nobody doubts that fluoroquinolones are useful drugs. They are powerful antibiotics that can save the lives of people who suffer from hospital-acquired pneumonia. Yet many doctors prescribe them for less serious ailments, including sinus and ear infections that can be treated effectively with less potent medications. Some doctors prescribe fluoroquinolones in the absence of any medical justification. The growing concern that drugs like Levaquin and Avelox are overprescribed should lead patients to ask whether they are taking a dangerous drug that they might not need.
Risks Associated with Fluoroquinolones
Patients who take a fluoroquinolone when they do not need it may be putting their health at risk. Fluoroquinolones have been associated with a number of health problems and side effects, including:
- Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage that causes a sensation of tingling or numbness).
- Acute kidney injuries.
- Acute liver injuries.
- Severe dysglycemia (blood sugar imbalances).
- Serious arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats).
- Tendon ruptures and tendinits.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires some of these conditions and side-effects to be described in written warnings that must be dispensed with the drugs. Two new studies raise concerns that drug companies are failing to warn patients that fluoroquinolones are associated with life-threatening conditions that may be deadlier than those described above.
Studies Linking Fluoroquinolones to Aortic Aneurysms and Aortic Dissections
The aorta is the large artery that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body. When a section of the aorta weakens, it may bulge under the pressure of flowing blood, in the same way that a weak spot in an inner tube bulges. That bulge is known as an aortic aneurysm. If the aneurysm ruptures, death is a likely consequence. Every year, more than 15,000 Americans die from aortic aneurisms.
The aorta is made up of layers. When the inner layer tears, it separates from the middle layers. That condition is known as an aortic dissection. Blood leaks between the layers and may place pressure on the outer layer, causing a rupture. Even before a rupture occurs, the disturbance of blood flow to organs can cause serious health problems. Left untreated, an aortic dissection is likely to result in death within 24 hours to 2 weeks.
The studies linking fluoroquinolones to aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections were both published in November 2015. One study was based on a large population of older adults in Canada. The other was based on data drawn from records of more than a million patients in Taiwan.
The two studies were motivated by research establishing that fluoroquinolones can cause collagen in a patient’s body to decay. Collagen is an important protein that is present in tendons and other soft tissues, as well as bones, skin, eyes, and organs. Collagen essentially holds the body together. Biologists who study cell structure discovered that fluoroquinolones reduce the quantity and quality of collagen fibrils. Collagen decay is the most likely explanation for the association between fluoroquinolone use and tendon ruptures, organ failure, and retinal damage.
Collagen also plays an important role in maintaining the structural integrity of the body’s arteries. Researchers theorized that the breakdown of collagen that fluoroquinolones cause might explain why some patients develop aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections.
The study in Canada examined more than 1.7 million patients over a period of 15 years. More than a third of those patients received at least one fluoroquinolone prescription during the study period. The researchers found that aortic aneurysms were more common in patients who took fluoroquinolone than those who did not.
The highest risk of experiencing an aortic aneurysm occurred during the 30-day period after the patient took a fluoroquinolone. During that period, patients were three times more likely to suffer from an aortic aneurysm than they were at other times. The average time between taking a fluoroquinolone and the discovery of an aortic aneurysm was 20 days. About half of those discoveries resulted in emergency hospital admissions, while 17% involved a ruptured aorta.
The Taiwan study examined 1,477 patients who had been hospitalized for an aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection. The researchers matched each patient to 100 control patients of the same age and sex drawn from the same database. From the database, the researchers were able to determine whether and when the hospitalized patients had received a prescription for a fluoroquinolone. The researchers found that the patients who suffered from an aortal aneurysm or an aortal dissection were significantly more likely than the control patients to have taken a fluoroquinolone within the prior year.
Taking a fluoroquinolone within the prior 60 days was associated with the highest risk of developing an aortal aneurysm or dissection. The study also found that patients who took fluoroquinolone for more than 14 days were significantly more likely to suffer from an aortic aneurysm or dissection than patients who took the drug for a shorter time. The researchers concluded that using fluoroquinolone for more than 60 days at least doubled the risk of having an aortal aneurysm or an aortal dissection.
Compensation for Collagen Disorders After Taking a Fluoroquinolone
The association between fluoroquinolones and collagen disorders has been known for some time. The FDA has been urged to improve the warnings that patients are given before they decide whether to take Levaquin, Avelox, or a generic fluoroquinolone. In light of the new studies, revised warnings should include the risk of developing an aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection.
Patients who were not warned of those risks and who were hospitalized for an aortic aneurysm or an aortic dissection within a few weeks after taking Avelox, Levaquin, or another fluoroquinolone may be entitled to compensation. Even patients who took the drug within a year of developing an aortic condition should ask a lawyer whether they should file a claim. Family members of a patient who died of an aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection after taking a fluoroquinolone may have grounds for pursuing a wrongful death claim.
A personal injury law firm that handles claims against drug companies based on the marketing of dangerous drugs or the failure to warn patients about the risks associated with those drugs can help you understand whether you have the right to compensation. Ask for an evaluation of your case right away. Delay may cause you to lose your right to bring a claim.