Levaquin Lawyer Delivers Opening Statement in First New Jersey Trial

Marketing materials for the antibiotic <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/levaquin">Levaquin downplayed its association with serious tendon injuries, according to a lawyer representing two plaintiffs in a Levaquin lawsuit. In his opening statement presented yesterday in a New Jersey State courtroom, <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/attorney-alonso-andres">Andres F. Alonso, a partner in the national law firm of Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, asserted that Johnson & Johnson failed to properly warn his clients that Levaquin could damage their tendons.

“J&J officials knew there was a problem and did everything they could to hide it” to protect Levaquin’s sales, Mr. Alonso told an Atlantic County jury, according to a Bloomberg News report.

In his opening statement, Mr. Alonso alleged that Paul Gaffney, 67, and Robert Beare, 72, both of New Jersey, suffered Achilles-tendon injuries because of Levaquin that left them unable to walk and required surgery. He said both men took the drug to treat sinus infections, Bloomberg reported. Among other things, Mr. Alonso accused Johnson & Johnson of using ghostwriters to produce medical journal articles touting Levaquin’s safety and effectiveness, rather than adding a more prominent warning to the drug’s label regarding its association with tendon injuries, even after receiving reports from Europe about tendon ruptures.

In his opening statement, Johnson & Johnson’s attorney asserted the drug maker repeatedly warned doctors and patients about reports linking tendon ruptures to Levaquin, starting when the drug was approved for sale in the U.S., Bloomberg said.

The Gaffney-Beare lawsuit is the first to go to trial in the New Jersey Levaquin mass tort litigation. The trial, which is being presided over by Judge Carol Higbee, is expected to last about four weeks, Bloomberg said.

Levaquin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, was first approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 to treat various types of infections. In 2008, a Black Box warning about tendon injuries was added to the labels of Levaquin and other fluoroquinolone antibiotics. At the time, the FDA said tendon injuries were more likely to occur in people who are over 60 years of age, taking steroids (corticosteroids), or who have undergone a kidney, heart, or lung transplant.

Since then, more than 3,000 Levaquin tendon injury lawsuits have been filed around the county against Johnson & Johnson. In addition to the 1,763 pending in New Jersey, another 1,314 are pending in a multidistrict litigation in federal court in Minnesota. Two cases have already gone to trial in the federal litigation. The first resulted in a $1.82 million verdict for the plaintiff, while the second ended in favor of the defendant.

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