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On December 19, 2017, the FDA issued an update to its Drug Safety Communication regarding brain retention of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) used for MRIs. Despite mounting evidence that GBCAs leave gadolinium in the brain, bones, and other tissues of all patients who undergo MRIs with contrast, the FDA has decided not to suspend the use of any GBCAs. This is in stark contrast to the actions taken by the European Medicine’s Agency and the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Those agencies suspended the use of the linear agents Magnevist, Omniscan, and OptiMark, while requiring changes to all GBCA product labeling. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare restricted the use of non-specific linear GBCAs only to cases where there is no alternative and it also required changes to product labeling.
In its Safety Alert, the FDA acknowledged that “linear GBCAs result in more retention and retention for a longer time than macrocyclic GBCAs”. However, the FDA concluded that “the benefit of all approved GBCAs continues to outweigh any potential risks”. This action was taken despite “reports of adverse events involving multiple organ systems in patients with normal kidney function”.
In response to the issue of gadolinium retention, the FDA is requiring several actions to alert health care professionals and patients about gadolinium retention after an MRI using a GBCA. These include requiring a new patient Medication Guide for each agent, providing educational information that every patient will be asked to read before receiving a GBCA, and taking actions that can help minimize problems. The FDA is also requiring manufacturers of GBCAs to conduct human and animal studies to further assess the safety of gadolinium-based contrast agents. Product labeling for all GBCAs must be changed to include new warnings and precautions.
Each GBCA will have a patient Medication Guide with agent specific information, and content that is required for all gadolinium-based contrast agents; the Medication Guide for MultiHance and ProHance have recently been released. The Radiology Department of each institution will create educational handouts that every patient will be asked to read before signing the consent form for his or her MRI or MRA with a GBCA.
Patients must be fully-informed about potential risks. (more…)
On September 8, 2017, after a day filled with presentations by drug industry representatives, medical professionals, FDA personnel, and people who have been affected by retained gadolinium, the FDA’s Medical Imaging Drugs Advisory Committee (MIDAC) took two important votes related to gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) and gadolinium retention.
First, MIDAC members agreed with the FDA’s plan to “revise the prescribing information for GBCAs as a class to include: a warning for retention for all GBCAs, with greater retention of all or some of the linear GBCAs compared to the macrocyclics in certain organs including the brain; recommended risk minimization steps for certain patient populations”. From the discussions, those populations appear to be pregnant women and children.
Second, MIDAC members agreed, that pending the results of a number of ongoing clinical and preclinical studies, the FDA “might request that manufacturers conduct additional studies that will inform our decisions about the need for further regulatory actions including withdrawal of approval and restriction of indicated populations”.
During his comments to the committee, Dr. Emanuel Kanal formally recommended that “the FDA encourage and/or support formal investigation” of our group. We hope that one or more additional studies will include members of our MRI-Gadolinium-Toxicity support group. We fully support Dr. Kanal’s recommendation since we believe people who have been affected by retained gadolinium can provide important data that is not available anywhere else.
During the meeting, no one disputed that gadolinium is toxic or that everyone who has an MRI with contrast retains an unknown amount of gadolinium. However, there is still disagreement about what, if any, long-term harm retained gadolinium might do to a patient, including someone who has evidence of gadolinium retention months and even years after his or her last contrast-enhanced MRI.
Until the September 8th MIDAC meeting, patients who believe they have been adversely affected by retained gadolinium have been left to their own devices to try to get their chronic health issues recognized as being caused by gadolinium toxicity and to find a way to remove gadolinium from their bodies. Hopefully, that will soon change.
The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) provided a live webcast of the September 8, 2017, MIDAC meeting. A recording of the webcast can be found at the four following addresses:
Start of Meeting to Morning Break: https://collaboration.fda.gov/p7goy94tum9/
Morning Break to Lunch Break: https://collaboration.fda.gov/p25a1oiwhqd/
Lunch Break to Afternoon Break: https://collaboration.fda.gov/p96q45ae2t3/
Afternoon Break to End of Meeting: https://collaboration.fda.gov/p1qe35bmdkj/
Hubbs Grimm and I, representing The Lighthouse Project and other affected patients, are speaker #2 in the Lunch Break to Afternoon Break video. That video includes all presentations made during the Open Public Hearing portion of the meeting.
On September 8, 2017, the FDA’s Medical Imaging Drugs Advisory Committee (MIDAC) will meet to discuss the potential risk of gadolinium retention in the brain and other body organs in patients receiving gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) for MRI procedures.
During the Open Public Hearing (OPH) portion of the meeting, 75 minutes have been allotted to interested persons to present data, information, or views, orally or in writing. The deadline for requesting time to speak has passed. However, interested parties have until September 7, 2017 to submit electronic or written/paper submissions related to the issue of gadolinium retention. Note that the Docket No. for the meeting is FDA-2017-N-1957 and it must be included on all submissions
An updated announcement about the meeting can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/AdvisoryCommittees/Calendar/ucm571112.htm
CDER (Center for Drug Evaluation and Research) plans to provide a live webcast of the September 8, 2017 MIDAC meeting. Information about the web address for the webcast will be made available at least 2 days before the meeting. See the updated announcement for more information about the webcast.
The Medical Imaging Drugs Advisory Committee Meeting Briefing Document titled, Gadolinium Retention after Gadolinium Based Contrast Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Patients with Normal Renal Function, is available for download: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/Drugs/MedicalImagingDrugsAdvisoryCommittee/UCM572848.pdf
Sharon Williams and Hubbs Grimm have submitted comments and supporting materials from The Lighthouse Project at GadoliniumToxicity.com for Docket No. FDA-2017-N-1957.
On Monday, May 22, 2017, the FDA issued its second Safety Announcement about gadolinium retention in the brain. The following text is the FDA’s complete announcement.
FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA identifies no harmful effects to date with brain retention of gadolinium-based contrast agents for MRIs; review to continue
This is an update to the FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA evaluating the risk of brain deposits with repeated use of gadolinium-based contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)issued on July 27, 2015.
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review to date has not identified adverse health effects from gadolinium retained in the brain after the use of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). All GBCAs may be associated with some gadolinium retention in the brain and other body tissues. However, because we identified no evidence to date that gadolinium retention in the brain from any of the GBCAs, including GBCAs associated with higher retention of gadolinium, is harmful, restricting GBCA use is not warranted at this time. We will continue to assess the safety of GBCAs and plan to have a public meeting to discuss this issue in the future.
Our recommendations for health care professionals and patients remain unchanged from July 2015 when we informed the public that we were investigating this potential risk with GBCAs. As is appropriate when considering the use of any medical imaging agent, health care professionals should limit GBCA use to circumstances in which additional information provided by the contrast agent is necessary, and assess the necessity of repetitive MRIs with GBCAs. Patients, parents, and caregivers should talk to their health care professionals if they have any questions or concerns about the use of GBCAs with MRIs. Retention of gadolinium affects only GBCAs, and does not apply to other types of scanning agents used for other imaging procedures, such as those that are iodine-based or radioisotopes.
GBCAs contain gadolinium, a type of heavy metal, that is linked to a carrier molecule. MRIs are a way to scan the body for problems such as cancer, infections, or bleeding. GBCAs are injected into a vein to enhance the quality of the MRI images of internal organs, blood vessels, and tissues, which helps health care professionals diagnose medical conditions. There are two types of GBCAs based on their chemical structures, linear GBCAs and macrocyclic GBCAs.
We evaluated scientific publications1-17 and adverse event reports submitted to FDA. Some human and animal studies looked at GBCA use over periods longer than a year. These publications and reports show that gadolinium is retained in organs such as the brain, bones, and skin. The publications show that linear GBCAs retain more gadolinium in the brain than macrocyclic GBCAs. However, our review did not identify adverse health effects related to this brain retention.
To date, the only known adverse health effect related to gadolinium retention is a rare condition called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) that occurs in a small subgroup of patients with pre-existing kidney failure. NSF is a painful skin disease characterized by thickening of the skin, which can involve the joints and cause significant limitation of motion within weeks to months. Recent publications report cases of reactions involving thickening and hardening of the skin and other tissues in patients with normal kidney function who received GBCAs and did not have NSF; some of these patients also had evidence of gadolinium retention.3, 12, 16 We are continuing to evaluate such reports to determine if these fibrotic reactions are an adverse health effect of retained gadolinium.
The manufacturer of OptiMARK (gadoversetamide), a linear GBCA, updated its label with information about gadolinium retention in various body organs such as the brain, skin, and other organs. We are reviewing the labels of other GBCAs to determine if changes are needed.
A recent review by the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) also identified no adverse health effects with gadolinium retention in the brain, but that Committee recommended suspending the marketing authorization of certain linear GBCAs because they cause a greater retention of gadolinium in the brain compared to macrocyclic GBCAs. The Committee’s recommendation is currently undergoing an appeal, which will be further reviewed by the PRAC and subsequently by the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use.18
We are continuing to assess the safety of GBCAs. FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) is conducting a study on brain retention of GBCAs in rats. Other research is also being conducted about how gadolinium is retained in the body. We will update the public when new information becomes available and we plan to have a public meeting to discuss this issue in the future.
We urge patients and health care professionals to report side effects involving GBCAs or other medicines to the FDA MedWatch program, using the information in the “Contact FDA” box at the bottom of the page.
The list of approved GBCAs and References included with this FDA Communication can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm559007.htm
The link to MedWatch can be found on the Contact FDA page.