I was going through some industry articles and came upon one from the Star Ledger about an investment firm challenging Johnson and Johnson (J&J) about their antibiotic drug Levaquin (Levofloxacin). I was intrigued by the article since the investment firm wanted J&J and its management team to be held responsible for the side effects from this antibiotic. After looking into it, I saw that Levaquin carries a black box warning from the FDA which is the strongest warning you can have before it gets pulled from the market.
What is Levaquin?
Levaquin is the trade name for Levofloxacin. It belongs to a class of drugs called fluoroquinolones. This is a big word so I am going to explain it as easily as I can. It is a synthetic (lab made) antibiotic designed to defend against a variety (spectrum) of bacteria. This drug was designed to treat people who had built up immunity to other common antibiotics. It is used to treat respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and other infections deemed life threatening. You see, when you take an antibiotic, you are helping your immune system fight an infection by turning it on.
This is great but one problem comes to mind, the more antibiotics you use, the more bacteria in your body becomes immune. This in essence creates superbacteria. I am sure most have Lysol products at home. Did you ever read the label or watch the TV commercials? It is guaranteed to kill 99.9% of all bacteria. You can’t kill 100% because bacteria build immunity over time.
Levofloxacin Side Effects
By now you are wondering why Levofloxacin has a black box label since it seems it should help against bacterial resistance. This synthetic drug when used has serious and life threatening reactions. This drug has been known to cause spontaneous tendon ruptures and damages the nerves of the peripheral nervous system which are the nerves in your arms and legs. Think about that, you are walking down the street and all of the sudden your Achilles heel bursts. I can’t imagine taking an antibiotic like Levofloxacin and then worry about a tendon rupturing. Well, what else? It can cause liver damage, create hallucinations, and cause serious allergic reactions. I am not making this up.
Why Use It?
That is the million dollar question. Granted, if the infection in your body is immune to all antibiotics, then you don’t have a choice. The bigger question is why Levofloxacin has been used for so long? J&J had $1.5 billion in sales in 2010 from the antibiotic but the side effects are brutal. I am wondering if all the side effects were not captured until a larger portion of the population began using this powerful antibiotic. Rather than having it pulled from the market, a black box label was added. I will tell you that I won’t use it unless it is of last resort. Have you used it successfully?