Johnson & Johnson attorney says Levaquin risks were known

Last week in our cover story, Achilles Heel, we wrote about a man whose Achilles tendon ruptured after he took the antibiotic Levaquin.

Now, the drug makers are on trial in Minneapolis in federal court.

The central issue in the trial, which began this morning, is whether drug maker Johnson & Johnson adequately warned doctors of the risks of taking the medication. Last fall, John "Bob" Schedin, won $700,000 in compensatory damages and $1.1 million in punitive damages when the jury agreed that the drug company hid risks.


Now, plaintiff Calvin Christensen is the second of nearly 1,000 people making the same argument. But his case may play out quite differently.

In our cover story, we spelled out the ways that Johnson & Johnson appeared to put profits above patient health. Much of the evidence for that came from an epidemiological study that Johnson & Johnson paid for in order to stop European regulators from issuing a more severe warning about the drug's risks. The plaintiffs allege that Johnson & Johnson manipulated the data to produce the results it wanted.

Today, attorneys for the drug company denied that the study was manipulated. They also pointed out that Johnson & Johnson spelled out the risk of tendon rupture in materials used to train sales reps.

But what may be the most significant part of the case is the testimony of Christensen's physician, Dr. Clark. In video testimony, Dr. Clark explained that he chose Levaquin to treat the elderly man's severe case of pneumonia because despite the drug's risks, it was the best option. Dr. Clark also stated the he was well-aware of Levaquin's risks.

This is significantly different from the testimony of the doctor in the first case, who said he wasn't aware that the risk of tendon rupture while taking Levaquin was higher in seniors and those taking steroids.