Hundreds of thousands of patients have taken the drug Elmiron over the years for relief from the condition interstitial cystitis (IC), a painful bladder health issue. Elmiron is a long-term treatment that eases the symptoms of IC, and has been a go-to medication for physicians and their patients for decades. However, recent (and numerous) studies link long-term use of Elmiron to severe and possibly permanent vision loss.
The Phoenix dangerous drug attorneys at Plattner Verderame, P.C. protects patients injured by defective drugs. We are currently reviewing potential cases involving Elimiron and vision loss. If you or a loved one suffered injury from use of Elmiron, contact our offices today.
What is Elmiron?
Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium) is a prescription-only oral medication manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), used to treat the symptoms of a painful bladder disorder called interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome. It is an ailment that affects the urinary tract system and causes abdominal and pelvic pain. Elmiron is believed to work by adhering to the bladder wall and preventing potential irritants in the urine from reaching the bladder wall. Elmiron is also a blood thinner and can increase the risk of bruising or bleeding from the gums or nose.
Is Elmiron safe?
Studies, including this one from 2019, show that long-term use of Elmiron is linked to serious eye disease and vision loss. Researchers from the Emory Eye Center at the Emory University Medical School in Atlanta, Georgia, linked the drug with a variety of retinal diseases and macular degeneration.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, after a review of patients who had been taking the drug for about 15 years, researchers found that “about one-quarter of patients with significant exposure to Elmiron showed definite signs of eye damage, and that this medication toxicity could masquerade as other known retinal conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration or pattern dystrophy.”
As of early 2022, Elmiron has yet to be subject to a recall.
What are the symptoms of eye damage from Elmiron?
Much of the issue with Elmiron is that the damage appears to come from long-term use, and many of the patients who experienced injury are older individuals. Because the injuries from Elmiron tend to be degenerative conditions of the eye, many of these injuries were written off as natural aging, or other medical reasons. Only now is the truth coming out.
Alam Hallan, the director of pharmacy at Guelph General Hospital in Ontario, Canada, told Healthline, “In this particular case, this medication, while improving the IC system, was also being built in other cells of our body. Since each cell is slightly different in our organs, the retinal cells have some chemicals that are not present in other cells of our bodies. It is this chemical that has been thought to interact with the Elmiron, resulting in the death of these cells.”
If you or a loved one used Elmiron for painful bladder syndrome (or other use like osteoarthritis), be aware of the following symptoms of Elmiron-induced vision damage:
- Abnormal blood vessels around the macula (parafoveal pigmented deposits)
- Blurry vision
- Dark or hyperpigmented spots near the retina
- Difficulty adjusting to darkness
- Difficulties with reading
- Dimmed vision
- Eye pain
- Halo vision
- Linear objects appearing curved or rounded (metamorphosia)
- Overall vision loss
- Spots of vision loss in central field of vision (paracentral scotoma)
- Yellow lesions underneath the macula (vitelliform deposits)
If you are taking, or have taken, Elmiron, consider consulting with your prescribing physician to reassess whether the benefits outweigh the risks. You should also see an ophthalmologist or specialist for regular screenings to monitor your eye health.
Did the manufacturers provide proper warning about Elmiron?
The most common side effects listed for Elmiron, according to the consumer website, are “hair loss, diarrhea, nausea, blood in the stool, headache, rash, upset stomach, abnormal liver function tests, dizziness, and bruising.” Side effects did not mention vision loss or macular degeneration until June 2020.
However, after the studies proving the link between eye diseases and Elmiron, Janssen’s only action was to quietly add a warning to page 12 of their prescribing information in June of 2020. Plaintiffs in ongoing lawsuits against the manufacturer allege that the omission of this warning for the drug, which has been on the market since the 1990s, opens up Janssen to liability for patients injured by Elmiron.
Product liability and defective drugs in Arizona
Under Arizona’s product liability law, injured consumers have the right to hold negligent companies and manufacturers responsible when they are harmed by a defective or dangerous product. Victims may bring a product liability action for dangerous drugs under three types of defects: design, manufacturing, and marketing. Most Elmiron actions are being brought under marketing defects.
Drug manufacturers have a duty to warn patients of the risks of using their product, and failure to do so can open them to liability when patients are harmed. At this time, new information is still coming out about what Janssen knew and when it knew it. The attorneys at Plattner Verderame, P.C. are carefully reviewing this information.
What damages can I claim in an Elmiron injury action?
If you or your loved one took Elmiron daily for more than six months and suffered retinal damage or other vision problems, you may be eligible for compensation. Our attorneys can consult with you on your individual case, but in a typical product liability, victims can claim the following damages:
- Medical expenses, current and future
- Lost wages, including loss of earning capacity
- Home care expenses, if needed
- Pain and suffering
You may also be eligible for punitive damages, depending on the circumstances. Our Phoenix defective drug lawyers attorneys work to ensure the proper and maximum amount of damages to which you are entitled for your injuries and losses.
If you believe your eye damage or vision loss was due to long-term use of Elmiron for painful bladder syndrome, you may be eligible for compensation. The defective drug attorneys at Plattner Verderame, P.C. can evaluate your case and stand up to power pharmaceutical companies on your behalf. Let us work for the compensation you deserve. Please call us at 602.266.2002 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment at our Phoenix or Tempe office.
I have been active in leadership in the Arizona Association for Justice (lawyers who represent injured folks, and formerly known as the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) since 1985. I served as President in 1991. I was an active participant in battles to protect the Arizona Constitution from the insurance industry and big business interests in 1986, 1990 and 1994.
Read more about Richard Plattner