Posted by : Ed Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Elmiron Lawsuits: A Vocabulary Lesson
Elmiron is the brand name of a drug used to treat bladder problems, but like so many other drugs, it can cause serious side effects in a completely different part of the body. If you’re going to take Elmiron product liability cases, here is some background information to help you on your way.
Elmiron (also known as pentosan polysulfate sodium) is made by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, part of Johnson & Johnson, according to its website. It’s a blood-thinning drug that treats the pain of interstitial cystitis (IC) though it’s not a pain medication.
Elmiron treats bladder pain
IC, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a chronic condition causing bladder pressure, bladder pain, and sometimes pelvic pain. The pain can range from mild to severe. IC is one of several diseases known as painful bladder syndrome (BPS).
The bladder stores urine. It expands until it’s full, then signals the brain it’s time to urinate, using pelvic nerves. This process creates the urge to urinate for most of us. IC causes people to feel the need to urinate more often and with smaller volumes of urine than most of us.
The cause of IC is unknown, but many factors contribute to the problem. People with it could have a defect in the protective lining (epithelium) of the bladder. A leak may allow toxic substances in the urine to irritate the bladder wall. Other potential causes are autoimmune problems, heredity, infection, or allergy.
IC often afflicts women and can have a long term impact on the quality of life. There is no cure. Elmiron offers some relief though even Janssen admits it doesn’t know how. When someone has IC, the inner layer of the bladder (the mucous layer) may be damaged, causing pain. It’s believed that Elmiron adheres to the bladder wall and acts as a buffer between it and toxic substances in urine.
In Elmiron’s packaging insert several possible side effects are listed. Vision problems are not one of them.
There’s evidence Elmiron causes eye damage
Medical studies have shown a possible link between the use of Elmiron and eye injuries. One theory is that the drug collects over time in the eye’s tiny blood vessels, causing damage. The injuries generally involve the retina and the macula.
- Retina: It is a thin layer of tissue lining the back of the eye’s interior. It contains millions of light-sensitive cells (rods and cones) and other nerve cells that receive and organize visual information. It sends this information to your brain through the optic nerve, enabling you to see
- Macula: This is the central part of the retina. Problems with the macula result in blurriness in the center of your vision
Those studies have found several vision issues with many Elmiron users, including:
- Retinal pigmentary changes: A pigmented layer of cells next to the retina acts as a pass-through between the light-sensitive photoreceptors of the retina and a layer of blood vessels, called the choroid, lying below
- Pigmentary maculopathy: A degeneration of the macula because of the death of rod photoreceptors then cone photoreceptors, which is visible due to pigment deposits in the macula. It causes difficulty in reading and seeing when there’s low light
Product liability cases involving pharmaceuticals can require an understanding of medical issues on par with medical experts. If you know the vocabulary you start on your way to grasping the issues your clients face.
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