Fluoroquinolones (FLQ’s) Can Cause Aortic Aneurysms and Aortic Dissection
By David Carnes, Staff Writer
Fluoroquinolones (FLQs) are a group of synthetic broad-spectrum antibiotics that include the popular pharmaceuticals Avelox, Cipro and Levaquin. They inhibit the growth of bacteria by unwinding their DNA. FLQs are very popular drugs – tens of millions of prescriptions are written every year, bringing in billions of dollars in revenue to major pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer and Johnson & Johnson. Unfortunately, FLQs are known to cause dangerous side effects such as nerve damage, heart attacks and strokes. Most recently FLQs have been linked to two potentially deadly conditions known as aortic aneurysms and aortic dissection.
FLQs are used to treat a number of bacterial illnesses including:
- Urinary tract infections
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Typhoid fever
- Skin infections
For many of these illnesses, FLQs are not the first treatment choice – FLQs are generally used to treat pneumonia, for example, only if it was acquired during a hospital stay.
Aortic Aneurysms and Aortic Dissections
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in part of the aorta, the body’s main artery. This condition is extremely dangerous because it can cause the aorta to burst, causing catastrophic blood loss and, in about half of all cases, swift death from loss of blood. Dangerously, most aortic aneurisms are asymptomatic. When symptoms do occur, they are generally vague – chest, belly or back pain, for example.
Aortic dissection occurs when the inner layer of the aorta tears, causing blood to rush into the space between the inner aortic wall and the outer aortic wall. This condition frequently results in death if the outer aortic wall tears and releases a large volume of blood from the aorta. Symptoms of an aortic dissection include sudden pain in the chest or back, shortness of breath, and stroke-like symptoms such as paralysis, loss of vision and difficulty speaking.
Two very large epidemiological studies have concluded that the use of FLQs increases the risk of aortic aneurisms and aortic dissections by well over 100 percent. This indicates that of thousands of people every year suffer these conditions due to the use of FLQs, many of whom die.
Current FDA-approved FLQ labeling does not include a warning on the risk of aortic aneurysm. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently investigating the possibility of strengthening the warning labels for FLQs, it is unclear whether or not these warnings will turn out to be adequate.
A number of lawsuits have been filed against major pharmaceutical companies by people who allege that they have been harmed by FLQs (personal injury lawsuits) or that their close relative has been killed by the use of FLQs (wrongful death lawsuits). FLQ lawsuits seem to offer promising prospects of compensation for plaintiffs because it is relatively easy to trace a causal link between the use of FLQs and the development of aortic aneurysms and dissections, because these conditions are very serious and often fatal, and because existing product warnings are grossly inadequate. The assistance of an experienced defective drug lawyer could be critical to winning a sizeable verdict or settlement.