TPMG ophthalmologist warns drug for painful bladder condition may damage retina

Patients taking the drug pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron), which is prescribed for a painful bladder condition, should be aware that the medication can cause severe eye damage, Robin Vora, MD, chair of ophthalmology for The Permanente Medical Group in Oakland, Calif., warned on CTV News.

Dr. Vora, who co-wrote a study looking at the side effects of the drug, told the Canadian broadcasting network in a recent article that at the worst stage, the damage “mimics really severe macular degeneration and we were a little bit shocked to see that a medicine could cause this much damage.”

Elmiron helps reduce symptoms from interstitial cystitis, a rare condition that can cause constant pain every time the bladder begins to fill, resulting in a frequent and urgent need to urinate that affects sleep and may result in dozens of trips to the restroom daily.

The study conducted by Dr. Vora and colleagues reviewed the electronic health records of more than 4 million Kaiser Permanente patients in Northern California. The study identified 140 patients who had taken an average of 5,000 Elmiron pills for over 15 years. The researchers were able to examine 91 of them.

In the study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, Dr. Vora and colleagues found that about 25% of those taking Elmiron for 5 years or longer had developed significant damage to the retina.

“The problem is that patients remain on this medicine and what we found in our research, the longer they are on it the more likely they are to have damage to the retina. It’s imperative for patients [to] hear this message and go see an ophthalmologist,” Dr. Vora said, urging patients to contact the prescribing doctor about this potential side effect.

Note: To read the entire article, visit CTV News.