Elmiron drug linked to vision problems in women

Elmiron, a medication used to treat conditions such as urinary tract infections and osteoarthritis, has been linked to vision disorders in women with long-term usage.

Posted Updated
Latisha Catchatoorian
, WRAL Digital Solutions
This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

New findings suggest Elmiron, a medication used to treat conditions such as urinary tract infections, osteoarthritis and others (and also referred to as pentosan polysulfate sodium), is linked to vision disorders in women with long-term usage. Further investigations into Elmiron are still underway, but several studies into its side effects have already been conducted.

"Studies published by Kaiser Permanente, the Emory University School of Medicine, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggest that there may be a correlation between prolonged Elmiron use and vision damage," said Whitney Butcher, a partner at Whitley Law Firm in Raleigh. Butcher oversees the firm's Drug and Device practice area. "Scientists have discovered that the greater the quantity of Elmiron taken, the more significant the damage."

Elmiron is the only FDA-approved drug used to treat interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition that causes bladder pressure and pain and sometimes pelvic pain. When Elmiron is taken for an extended period of time, studies suggest the drug can cause pigmentary maculopathy and other side effects.

Pigmentary maculopathy affects the macula in the retina (the central part) of the eye and may negatively affect the ability of the eye to sense and adapt to changes in light. The retina is associated with accurate vision and the macula shields it from harmful light such as UV and blue light, allowing a person to see details clearly.

"In 2018, Emory Eye Center in Atlanta reported that patients who had been taking a standard dosage of Elmiron, from 200 to 400 mg a day, for about 15 years developed unusual changes in their macula," Butcher wrote for the Legal Examiner. "In 2019, they found that an additional 10 patients diagnosed with interstitial cystitis and prescribed Elmiron all showed symptoms of pigmentary maculopathy.

Ophthalmologists at Kaiser Permanente also conducted their own study showing 24 percent of their patients who had taken Elmiron for at least five years showed eye damage."

Symptoms of maculopathy include vision loss, distorted vision, or difficulty reading. This condition is preventable in most cases, but if developed, may be untreatable. The likelihood of developing this condition can increase with prolonged Elimiron use.

Elmiron has also been linked to conditions such as:

  • Optic Neuritis
  • Retinal Hemorrhage
  • Amblyopia

Studies additionally revealed even after patients discontinue taking the drug, progressive damage to their vision (challenges adapting to low-light environments, low-light related visions changes, difficulty reading, and eye pain) still occurred. These disorders can sometimes mimic dry atrophic age-related macular degeneration in the late stages.

"Some eye doctors are recommending that patients experiencing maculopathy in the eye discontinue taking Elmiron," said Butcher. "Individuals who have taken Elmiron and are experiencing symptoms related to pigmentary maculopathy should contact their doctor to discuss their options."

Patients should never stop taking their regularly prescribed medications without first speaking to their doctor, but Butcher said it would behoove patients to discuss alternative treatments with their physicians in a timely manner.

Manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, ongoing investigations into Elmiron suggest the company may have had prior knowledge about the connection between the drug and its vision-related risks for decades.

"Whitley Law Firm is pursuing claims against Janssen on behalf of women who have taken the medication and subsequently suffered from the aforementioned vision problems," said Butcher. "You may have a legal claim if you or a loved one developed vision-related issues after taking Elmiron for a prolonged period of time. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you identify your legal options, guide you through the specifics of your case and seek the justice that you deserve."

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.


Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.