Johnson & Johnson's Levaquin risks were known, jury decides

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Our cover story, Achilles Heel, documented Johnson & Johnson's efforts to prove its drug was safe
A federal jury in Minneapolis has decided that the risks of a blockbuster drug made by Johnson & Johnson were well-established, directly contradicting a verdict another jury reached last fall.

Calvin Christensen, 84, claimed that taking the drug Levaquin caused his Achilles tendon to rupture. But the drug maker successfully argued that Christensen's doctor knew the risks and prescribed it anyway. Score: Johnson & Johnson, 1; the People, 1.

Next up: a tiebreaker trial in November.

The latest verdict is just a small battle in the ongoing war over whether Johnson & Johnson deliberately hid dangerous side effects of its antibiotic, Levaquin, in order to maximize profits.

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Sales revenue from Levaquin
Last fall, a jury determined that John "Bob" Schedin's tendon was ruined because the company wasn't forthcoming about the risks of its drug. In that case, Schedin's doctor testified that he didn't fully understand the risks when he prescribed the drug. Schedin won $700,000 in compensatory damages, plus $1.1 million in punitive damages.

Schedin, now 83, was the first plaintiff in a series of lawsuits over Levaquin that now includes nearly 1,000 plaintiffs in Minnesota.

Christensen was the second case in the series, but it was tougher for the plaintiffs to win. Christensen had a number of health problems, and his doctor said that even knowing the risks of tendon rupture, Levaquin was the best option to combat his patient's severe case of pneumonia.

A third case in the series is now scheduled for federal court in Minneapolis this November, and the outcome of that trial may help the parties determine if it's time to settle. Separately, another multi-plaintiff Levaquin case begins in New Jersey in September.

Related:
*Johnson & Johnson attorney says Levaquin risks of were known
*Cover story: Achilles Heel

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