Pharmaceutical

Gadolinium federal lawsuits move ahead

Injecting a toxic liquid metal such as gadolinium into the bloodstream may seem like a procedure from a sci-fi horror movie, but it is a common, every day occurrence in medical centers throughout the country.

When gadolinium is in the bloodstream, medical imaging devices produce clearer, more defined images of the patient’s blood vessels. Since gadolinium is extremely toxic to human tissue, it must first be coated with a benign chemical before being injected into the patient. Over the course of time, the body expels the metal through the kidneys.

Patients with poor kidneys, however, experience a buildup of the toxic metal in their body. The protective coating on the gadolinium eventually breaks down and the patient begins to experience the symptoms of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF).

Currently, 391 lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts against manufacturers of the gadolinium based contrast dyes. 287 cases pending in Multidistrict Litigation are now moving forward in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The remaining 104 NSF lawsuits are pending in state courts. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation designated the Northern District of Ohio to handle all NSF lawsuits pending in federal courts. Last week, the presiding judge established ground rules for the consolidated cases now moving forward.

Defendants named in the suits are GE Healthcare, Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, Bracco Diagnostics, and Mallinckrodt.

The very first cases of NSF were identified in 1997. NSF is a debilitating disease for which there is currently no known cure. Symptoms include fibrosis of the skin, eyes, joints, and internal organs, hardened skin, limited movement, high blood pressure, dark patches, redness, itchiness, burning, and swelling of skin, soreness of hips and ribs, muscle weakness and limited movement. Progression of the disease can lead to severe rigidity in the joints and death.