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Officer Says Antibiotic Biaxin Made Him Crazy

CHICAGO (CN) - A generic version of the antibiotic Biaxin made a police officer psychotic, believe himself a prophet, and open fire on firefighters trying to help him because he thought they were demons, the officer claims in court.

Bradley Colas sued AbbVie, Inc. and Abbott Laboratories in Federal Court.

"In February of 2012, plaintiff was a police officer with the Virginia Beach Police Department and was an active member of the community, admired by his coworkers and peers.

"Plaintiff had no history of psychosis or any mental disorder," according to the 22-page federal lawsuit.

Colas's doctor diagnosed him with acute bronchitis and prescribed Biaxin, a drug manufactured and marketed by Abbott Labs through its subsidiary AbbVie. His pharmacy filled the prescription with the generic version of the drug.

"Biaxin was Abbott's 'flagship drug,' achieving $1.3 billion in annual sales in 1997 which comprised 11 percent of Abbott's sales revenues for that year," the complaint states.

But as early as 2000, several medical journals had reported that the drug produced dangerous side effects in 2 to 3 percent of people, the complaint states. These side effects included psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations, a phenomena called "antibiomania."

Abbott provided no information in its "Warnings" section about a possible psychotic reaction to the drug, according to the complaint.

After taking his fourth dose of Biaxin, Colas says, he "began feeling as if he had some special religious powers and would be given a religious mission."

Days later, after finishing his course of Biaxin, Colas "began believing that his friend in Philadelphia was in trouble and that an evil person was trying to harm her."

The complaint continues: "Late Saturday night and continuing into early Sunday morning, plaintiff's paranoia and psychosis increased dramatically, as demonstrated by telephone calls and text messages to family and friends. Among other manifestations of this, plaintiff became convinced that he was a 'prophet.'

"Plaintiff called his friend in Philadelphia, and when she didn't answer, he left his apartment to 'rescue' her. He took his knife, police-issued pistol, and police badge with him.

"While driving on the Eastern shore of Virginia on his way to Philadelphia, plaintiff felt like he had supernatural powers. While driving, plaintiff took notes about other cars with drivers he perceived as suspicious.

"At times, plaintiff closed his eyes while driving because he felt that if he had enough faith, his car would stay on the road. When his car began careening off the road, plaintiff would open his eyes, correct his course, and repeated the process.

"Eventually, plaintiff lost control of his vehicle, hit a road sign, and crashed into a large bush.

"In response to a 9-1-1 call, an ambulance and fire engine arrived at the scene. Plaintiff noticed that the fireman's helmet had the number four (4) on them and that their fire engine was Engine Forty-Four (44), numbers plaintiff perceived as evil at the time. Plaintiff thought the firemen were demons."

He "became paranoid" when the firefighters asked him for information, and because he thought they were demons, he fought them off.

"During the struggle, plaintiff exhibited tremendous strength, shaking off the firefighters. He stabbed two firefighters and shot at a firefighter as well, with the bullet striking the man's pant leg," the complaint states.

"Plaintiff was seriously injured during the fight, suffering a 4-inch gash to his skull and a lacerated wrist. Both injuries caused profuse bleeding.

"During the chaos, plaintiff hopped on the side of the fire truck and asked for a ride to Philadelphia. Plaintiff fell off the truck as it pulled away and the truck nearly run over plaintiff as it was driving off.

"After the firemen left, Virginia State Police arrived on the scene and found plaintiff walking down the road, heading to Philadelphia. The troopers pulled their guns and pointed them at plaintiff, all while screaming orders at him. The police mistook the police badge in plaintiff's hand - both hands were raised in the air as the police had demanded - for a gun. The police eventually arrested plaintiff, ordered him to the ground, and handcuffed him.

"Plaintiff congratulated the police on a 'great felony stop.' The troopers took his gun and knife and told plaintiff to shut up as he continually attempted to talk to them about Jesus and his trip to Philadelphia.

"Later Trooper Steve Kulick would say that in his twenty-four years of law enforcement he had only seen one other situation where the person acted delusional and psychotic like plaintiff. But at the time, while calling in to his boss after the encounter with plaintiff, he was even more emphatic: 'I've never seen anything like this!'" the complaint states.

Colas says his psychosis faded while he was in the hospital.

He was charged with attempted murder and malicious wounding of rescue workers, and spent three months in jail before the state dropped all charges against him one day before trial.

All the medical experts who examined him, including the court-appointed psychiatrist, found that Colas had suffered from a drug-induced psychosis as a result of his Biaxin prescription, the complaint states.

Colas returned to work at the police department three weeks after prosecutors withdrew the charges, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

He seeks punitive damages for failure to warn, negligence and fraud.

He is represented by Michael Crosby, of Rockford.

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