A grieving wife in Duluth, Georgia, says a popular, often-prescribed antibiotic killed her husband, Chris Dannelly, in just two doses.
The generic name of the common antibiotic is levofloxacin and is sold under the brand name Levaquin, a drug marketed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson. Dannelly says that her husband, just 41-years-old with two young children, was a very healthy individual and had “aced a physical” two months prior to experiencing flu-like symptoms, which can vary in nature from a cough, headache, and body aches to fever and generalized weakness, according to WSVB TV Atlanta.
Chris Dannelly decided to go to an urgent care to be diagnosed and treated. A physician there diagnosed him with pneumonia, which is often a complication of influenza, but can also mimic symptoms of influenza. He was prescribed the antibiotic Levofloxacin at a dosage of 750 mg, which is a safe dosage under federal drug guidelines. He immediately took his first pill as directed. Instead of becoming better, he became worse. Kathy Dannelly recalls her husband’s health prior to the antibiotic.
“At 41, although Chris was always an athlete and stayed in shape, Chris was at his prime.”
Pictures of the man show a lithe, seemingly healthy individual who actively participated with his children and led an active lifestyle. Soon after his second dose, he became so ill that he could not take the medication anymore. The time span was short – he went from walking into a clinic to barely able to move 48 hours later, Kathy Dannelly reports. He had developed new symptoms, as well, far beyond what influenza or pneumonia generally entails. His whole body was extremely stiff and he was in extreme pain.
“Two pills…and by Sunday night, I had him in the bathtub in the water trying to do whatever I could to cool him off. He just was stiff and just suffering.”
Chris was rushed soon after to the local emergency room, where Kathy recounts the final memory that her children have of their father’s life: suffering in agony, physicians and nurses furiously attempting to save him, but it was too late. Chris Dannelly died soon afterward.
“That’s really hard to get out of my mind that I couldn’t help him. Nobody could.”
An autopsy performed soon afterward showed that Chris Dannelly died of rhabdomyolysis, a rare condition that destroys muscle and sends byproducts of that muscle into the bloodstream. It is a somewhat rare condition, most commonly caused by people who lay in one place for too long and their muscles begin to deteriorate. The byproducts of that destroyed muscle cause multiple severe complications, including renal failure. Another cause of rhabdomyolysis is certain medications, but with the antibiotic Levofloxacin, commonly used to treat pneumonia, that warning was not on the label. That information was only released after approval to release it.
The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Chris listed the likely cause of death as “an adverse outcome to this drug.” Kathy Dannelly agrees.
“He was poisoned.”
A physician agrees with her. Charles Bennett, MD, Ph.D., says there is little doubt in his mind. Consumer investigator Jim Strickland reports that the FDA is deciding whether to issue strong new warnings about potentially damaging side effects, including death from rhabdomyolysis.
Kathy Dannelly has a goal: to get Levofloxacin off the market.
“If I can get involved in this drug somehow coming off the market one day, then that’s the least I can do in (Chris’s) name. In his honor.”
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]