To top it all off, Sue has been in constant pain for four years (she took Avelox in 2005–2006 and had the injury in 2007) and sunk into a deep depression, all because she took three treatments of this powerful antibiotic that has been linked to tendon tears and ruptures, for three separate sinus infections. But neither Sue nor any of her doctors linked Avelox side effects to her injury because the FDA didn't require a black box warning until 2008; even though Public Citizen petitioned an Avelox warning label way back in 1996. Even though in 2005, the Illinois Attorney General's office petitioned the FDA to place a black box warning on Avelox.
Sue had always been very physically fit; she went to the gym five days a week and had a great job at the hospital—until early 2007. "I was sitting on the floor one night and as I got up, I heard a huge pop and snap, then I fell and passed out from the pain," Sue explains. "I was alone at the time; I hobbled to the freezer and grabbed a bag of frozen corn—I figured I had twisted my ankle. Fast forward two weeks and still in pain, I knew something was wrong so I saw my primary doctor for x-rays.
"He told me it was probably just a sprain and to stay off it. Next up I saw a podiatrist and he put me in a walking boot to take the pressure off. We tried all kinds of treatments, including cortisone injections, over the next year. Nothing worked so I went to an orthopedic surgeon, an ankle specialist. Avelox never crossed my mind…
"The surgeon sent me for an MRI and discovered two ligaments completely severed in half—that was the pop and snap sound I heard. I couldn't t believe it, but I knew something serious was wrong and it didn't take a nurse to figure that out.
"Now it's 2008; I had ultrascopic surgery to remove scar tissue. One year later, popping Percocet and still in severe pain, I had another MRI, which showed another ligament hanging by a shred. My surgeon thought it would be wise to do more invasive surgery: he opened my entire foot and replaced the shredded ligament with ligament from a cadaver; he basically did a reconstruction of my entire ankle because calcification had formed and scar tissue was everywhere on my outer left ankle.
"I was in a full cast with complete bed rest for eight weeks, then crutches for another eight weeks with physical therapy twice a week. I was still popping pain meds and still not connecting it with Avelox. In case he'd overlooked anything, my surgeon sent me to his colleague, who concurred that I might never feel the same again—not too reassuring. Then he sent me to a pain clinic but that was no help.
"Around this time I went back to my primary. He told me about the Avelox tendon rupture side effects. (I don't hold my doctor at fault—he didn't know until the black box warning.)
"I came home and googled Avelox tendon ruptures. You've got to be kidding me! What a weird side effect for an antibiotic. Then I read so many stories that sounded like me; they were all horrible with no happy endings, with many people on disability for the rest of their lives.
"I told my orthopedic surgeon. He said, 'I will go to court for you because it is possible that this drug caused your injury. You were totally healthy before this and there was no incident that could have caused it.'
"But I put an Avelox lawsuit on the back burner because my life started to go down the tubes. I only had disability benefits through the state and it ran out. I had to give up my job that the hospital held for a year. It was financially hard to maintain my house being in so much pain, not being able to walk—I was drowning.
"I finally put my house up for sale and had to move. My surgeon said I needed to go to the pain center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
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"I go for my second treatment next week; it's a long drive and my parents have to take me because I'm a wreck afterward. Meanwhile, my attorney is trying to get me full disability. I'm collecting partial permanent disability; I've been getting food stamps because these meds are so expensive. Thank god for my parents but I'm guilt-ridden thinking about the money they've spent on me; I've become such a burden to them.
"I'm hopeful that it isn't too late to file a lawsuit against Avelox; I have nothing left."