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Levaquin users are requesting that the New Jersey Supreme Court accord mass-tort treatment to their lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, a subsidiary of Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc. for claims involving muscle problems resulting from using the drug.

Levaquin, a synthetic broad spectrum antibiotic, is prescribed to treat bacterial infections of the skin, urinary tract, and respiratory system. According to the FDA, patients who use it are at an increased risk for tendonitis and tendon rupture in the shoulder, biceps, hand and thumb.

The risk is greater in older patients, those taking corticosteroids, such as prednisone, and those with kidney, heart and lung transplants, the FDA said.

In July 2008, at the request of the DC-based patient advocacy group Public Citizen, the FDA began requiring Ortho-McNeil to include a black box warning label on Levaquin about the increased risk of tendon injury. From November 1997 to December 2005, Public Citizen found 258 cases of tendonitis and 274 cases of other tendon disorders in the FDA Adverse Event database connected directly to the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics; 61% of which were Levaquin.

Since the black box warning, more and more lawsuits involving Levaquin have emerged.

There will likely be thousands of suits involving the same defendants, similar complex issues of law and fact and plaintiffs with a high degree of commonality in their injuries and damages, making the litigation ideally suited for central management, says plaintiffs lawyer Michael London.

In requesting mass-tort treatment last month, London also asked that the litigation be centralized with Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee in Atlantic County, where he has already filed six suits. London says his firm, Douglas & London in New York, represents more than 200 plaintiffs from 38 states and expects to file many additional suits.

London also said Judge Higbee has significant experience handling complex mass tort and product liability actions and a staff equipped to handle thousands of cases. Higbee was in charge of New Jersey Vioxx mass-tort litigation, presiding over 16,400 cases — 61 percent of the national total — before Merck & Co. announced a $4.85 billion global settlement of Vioxx cases in late 2007. –Charles Toutant,

If you have experienced tendon injuries while taking Levaquin, contact The Ferrara Law Firm to learn more about your right to compensation.

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