Monroe woman who suffered Levaquin drug side effects 'wanted to die'

A Monroe woman along with thousands of others claim a common drug called Levaquin has damaged their bodies.

A Monroe County woman joined thousands of other Americans who say the drug Levaquin caused severe side effects.

They say a common drug called Levaquin has damaged their bodies and in some cases and even killed their relatives.

"I knew that I was poisoned but I couldn't prove it," said Stacy Halason.

Recalling her lowest moment within the last six years, 50-year-old Stacy Halason of Monroe said on Friday that she's been in pain every day since taking the antibiotic Levaquin in 2009.

"I felt like I was going crazy," she said. "And I wanted to die. I told my family I want to die."

She took the medication for a simple ear infection, then for a urinary tract infection, like thousands of others.

Halason later learned as part of a class-action lawsuit filed in the District of Columbia last month that she's not alone. Extreme side effects include nerve damage, digestive issues, weakness and paralysis.

"It was already too late," she said. "It was ripping through my nervous system."

Attorney Larry Klayman says Friday that Levaquin, which is still being distributed, is estimated to have killed more than 5,000 people and injured more than 80,000 people.

"It's not just a question of compensating victims," said Larry Klayman, the plaintiffs' attorney in a phone interview. "It is a question of protecting people throughout this country and the world."

The lawsuit targets Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Renaissance Technologies and Johnson & Johnson but specifically, Dr. Margaret Hamburg and her husband, accusing them of suppressing dangerous information.

"People have died," Klayman said. "Some of them can't even swallow. It has all kinds of side effects."

Halason says since taking the drug, her relationship crumbled and she became too ill to work and lost her home. She found a support group online and realized she may be one of the lucky ones.

"How can you do that to people," she said. "How could you live on the deaths of others and sleep at night.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals on Friday said in a statement it stands by the drug. A statement said in part:

"The LEVAQUIN label has provided information on the benefits and risks associated with the medication ... We stand behind LEVAQUIN and believe our actions regarding the medicine have been appropriate, responsible and in the best interests of patients."

Klayman says he is confident there is more people out there, asking for more than $800 million for these victims.

"You aren't going to get away with it," Halason said. "You are not going to live on the deaths of the American people and you are not going to get away with it, killing Americans. You are going to go to prison."

The entire Levaquin statement from Janssen Pharmaceuticals states: 

"LEVAQUIN® (levofloxacin) is part of an important fluoroquinolone class of anti-infective prescription medications that has been used for nearly 20 years to treat infections, including those that may be serious or life threatening. Since it was first approved in 1996, the LEVAQUIN® label has provided information on the benefits and risks associated with the medication, including warnings and precautions. We continually monitor the safety and efficacy of all our medicines and, in cooperation with the US FDA and other health authorities, we update our product labels with new information so doctors and patients can make informed decisions. 
We stand behind LEVAQUIN® and believe our actions regarding the medicine have been appropriate, responsible and in the best interests of patients. 
"You can find the current LEVAQUIN® Medication Guide for patients HERE. And the full US prescribing information, including boxed warning, HERE."

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