Medications are meant to bring relief and peace of mind, but when your treatment begins to attack unrelated areas of your body, that peace of mind can be compromised. In June 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (‘FDA’) issued a Labeling Change related to the prescription drug Elmiron used for a bladder condition. This label change gave warning that Elmiron can cause issues with eyesight. Although there has been no recall, users were advised to get regular eye exams and stop using it if they notice problems with their vision.
Elmiron is used to treat pain and discomfort from interstitial cystitis (‘IC’), a painful (and common) bladder condition which is difficult to treat and often mistaken for urinary tract infections. Elmiron is believed to help with the pain from this condition by attaching to the bladder wall and creating a barrier to prevent more damage. Elmiron has been prescribed to treat this condition for decades and is the only drug approved by the FDA to do so.
After a troubling study at Emory University in 2018, researchers wrote a letter to the Journal of Urology stating they found that long term use of Elmiron can cause serious damage to the retina. This “pigmentary maculopathy” comes from injury to the outer layer of the retina. Physicians at Kaiser Permanente took this warning seriously and reviewed medical records of over four million of their patients and were able to actually study 91 of them who had been taking Elmiron over a long period of time. Around one-quarter of the patients examined were found to have significant damage to the retina which had previously—and unfortunately—been attributed to other diseases that affect the eyes.