Home » Elmiron Injuries: Retina Damage from Bladder Medication

Elmiron Injuries: Retina Damage from Bladder Medication

Elmiron is a medication that women have been prescribed for a bladder disorder called interstitial cystitis and osteoarthritis.  Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a painful condition that disproportionately affects women. Recent research has shown that it is far more common than originally thought, with up to eight million women suffering symptoms. IC feels like having a continuous urinary tract infection. Osteoarthritis is another common condition that affects tens of millions of Americans, especially women as they get older.

Elmiron has been on the market since 1996. In that time, numerous patients have been diagnosed with a serious vision problem linked to the drug, potentially costing them their eyesight. The number of people with Elmiron-related vision damage is growing. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the maker of the drug.

If you or a loved one have taken Elmiron and been diagnosed with a macular injury, you should speak with a lawyer immediately.

Elmiron’s Maker Profits While Women Lose Their Eyesight

Patients take Elmiron three times each day to deal with the symptoms of these conditions. It is supposed to work on inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis. It treats IC by forming a protective coating around the bladder. However, recent studies have called Elmiron’s effectiveness into question.

Nonetheless, Janssen Pharmaceutical (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) has racked up approximately $150 million in annual sales of Elmiron, marketing this drug as a safe way to treat these conditions. Patients and their health insurance companies will spend between $1,000-$1,200 for each Elmiron prescription.

Women Were Not Warned of the Danger to Their Eyes

However, Janssen does not tell you that Elmiron can possibly leave you blind. They also do not tell you that there have been years worth of reports filed with the FDA of these exact problems. There are no warnings on the label that could let patients know of these serious side effects, even though Adverse Event Reports have been coming into the FDA for quite a while.

It was not until June 2020 that the makers of Elmiron were instructed by the FDA to add something to the warning label about retinal pigmentary changes. This was many years after injured women began taking Elmiron, and it only came after numerous research studies revealed the dangers of the drug. Elmiron’s maker changed the warning label five other times without mentioning possible vision damage.

Why Elmiron Can Damage Your Eyes Permanently

When a drug is toxic, your retina are one of the first parts of your body to suffer damages. There is a vast vascular network in the eyes, and they depend on an extensive blood supply. Damage to the retinas can be irreversible. In many cases, the only thing that doctors can do is slow the onset of symptoms. Many Elmiron users have little to no hope of seeing normally ever again.

The specific condition is called pigmentary maculopathy. It turns out that Elmiron can damage retinal tissue because of its toxicity. This can cause the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty reading
  • Permanent vision loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty adapting to dim lighting
  • Temporary vision loss

Some Studies Have Shown that 25% of People Taking Elmiron Suffered Retinal Damage

In 2018, research studies began to note a connection between Elmiron and permanent vision damage. One recent study showed alarming results. 91 people who had taken the drug over a 15-year period were tested, and 22 of them showed signs of retinal damage.

Elmiron is usually a drug that patients take over the long term when they have IC. Their doctor prescribes the medication, and it becomes part of their daily routine. This is a drug that patients took without a second thought for many years. One lawsuit alleged that patients can suffer irreversible retinal damage after taking Elmiron for as little as six months

What makes the Elmiron lawsuits unique is the extremely high risk of injury that patients face when taking the drug. In most pharmaceutical lawsuits, the number of people who were harmed is a small fraction of the overall number of people who were taking the drug. However, for Elmiron, there are some estimates that as many as one in four people prescribed the medication have the potential to be seriously injured. This is an alarmingly high rate.

For some patients, the vision problems can be reduced or go away entirely when they stop taking Elmiron. Others who have taken the drug for years will have permanent damage. The problem is that Elmiron is the only approved drug to treat IC. New patients will now need extensive monitoring of their eyes when they begin to take the drug.

Be Proactive About Having Your Eyes Examined if You Take Elmiron

If you have been taking Elmiron and have any loss of vision, it is crucial that you get an extensive eye examination. Even if the cause of your eye problems was initially diagnosed as something else, you should visit the doctor again as more information has been learned about the dangers of Elmiron. Many people were simply misdiagnosed as having age-related macular degeneration before these research studies were released. You may still have time to file a lawsuit.

How a Lawyer Can Help Women Harmed by Elmiron

You should also take the time to learn more about your legal rights. Injured patients began to file lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical in 2020. The number of lawsuits continues to grow. As of this writing, there are nearly 500 lawsuits relating to retinal damage from Elmiron. Given the number of patients who have taken Elmiron over the past quarter-century, and the high proportion of them who have suffered some kind of eye damage, we expect this number to grow.

These lawsuits are still in their early stages. Large product liability cases take time to litigate, and the first Elmiron cases are scheduled to go to trial in January 2023. Just because these cases can be prolonged does not mean that you can delay filing your own lawsuit. You have a limited amount of time from when you first discover that your pigmentary maculopathy is tied to your use of Elmiron to file a lawsuit.


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