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Interstitial Cystitis Drug Linked To Retinal Damage: Study

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Elmiron, the only FDA-approved oral drug to treat interstitial cystitis, also known as bladder pain syndrome, has been found to be associated with a vision-threatening eye condition, according to a new study.

Approved by the FDA in 1996, Elmiron is marketed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and is a mainstay of treatment of interstitial cystitis for decades.

Following last year's report of 6 six patients who had been taking Elmiron for about 15 years experiencing retinal damage, three ophthalmologists Robin Vora, Amar Patel, and Ronald Melles, conducted a review of entire database of 4.3 million patients at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California to know if there is any link between the drug and eye damage.

The review revealed that there were 140 patients who had taken an average of 5,000 Elmiron pills each over a period of 15 years. Of those 140 patients, 91 agreed to get their eyes checked by the ophthalmologists.

Detailed images of the back of the eyes of patients with significant exposure to Elmiron were taken and were classified into three categories: normal, possible abnormality, definite abnormality. The study revealed that 22 of the 91 patients showed clear signs of drug toxicity.

Commenting on the finding, Vora said, "It's unfortunate. You have a patient with a chronic condition like interstitial cystitis, for which there is no cure and no effective treatment. They get put on these medications because it's thought to have few side effects and few risks, and no one thinks about it again. And year after year, the number of pills they're taking goes up and up."

The research was presented at AAO 2019, the 123rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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