Gadolinium Toxicity

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Gadolinium Toxicity – Let’s not make the same mistake again

An Editorial by Hubbs Grimm
August 2018

(A pdf of this Editorial is available for download)

I want to talk about the unfortunate results of the early studies of gadolinium toxicity that defined NSF and the parallels I see today in the effort to define Gadolinium Deposition Disease (GDD).  I will also propose an alternative view of how to describe gadolinium toxicity in a way that reflects what we currently know and do not know that will recognize all patients who have been affected by retained gadolinium.

Before I begin, I want to be clear that I believe all those who have contributed in the past and those who are contributing today are doing so with the best of intentions and working from the basis of their experience and perspective.  But that does not mean that the result or proposals are necessarily best for meeting the needs of the people who are suffering from the toxic effects of gadolinium.

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Gadolinium Toxicity: If not NSF, then what is it?

Editorial by Sharon Williams
August 2018

(A pdf of this Editorial is available for download)

What difference does a name make?  Evidently, when you are naming a disease it can make a huge difference.  The name can limit the scope of medical research, and when it comes to gadolinium, it has the potential to exclude other patient populations who have been exposed to the same toxic metal.

In 1997, when a group of patients on dialysis developed what appeared to be a new skin disorder, it was called Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NFD).  When researchers later learned that the problem went well beyond the patients’ skin and caused a systemic disease process, the name was changed to Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF).  The word “nephrogenic” in the name caused doctors and researchers to focus on people with severe renal disease.  At the beginning, that made sense since the problem only had been seen in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).  Later we learned more about the cause.

In 2006, nine years after NSF/NFD was first diagnosed, the connection was made between NSF and gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) administered for MRIs.  Even though impaired kidney function did not cause NSF, the focus remained on the “N” or nephrogenic part of NSF.  Patients with normal kidney function were being overlooked; however, they were not unaffected by retained gadolinium from GBCAs.

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Preliminary report on DTPA chelation therapy to treat patients with Gadolinium Deposition Disease

The results of a chelation study using Ca-/Zn-DTPA to treat 25 patients diagnosed with Gadolinium Deposition Disease (GDD) will be published in the June 2018 issue of Investigative Radiology.  The complete article is not freely available to the public.  However, you can find the abstract of, “Intravenous Calcium-/Zinc-Diethylene Triamine Penta-Acetic Acid in Patients with Presumed Gadolinium Deposition Disease – A Preliminary Report on 25 Patients”, by Semelka et al. at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29419708

According to the FDA, Calcium-DTPA (Ca-DTPA) and Zinc-DTPA (Zn-DTPA) are drug products that have been used for over 40 years to speed up excretion of the actinide elements plutonium, americium, and curium from the body.  Gadolinium (Gd) is a lanthanide series element that shares a number of chemical properties with actinides.  The purpose of the study was to determine if the FDA-approved actinide metal decorporation agents Ca-/Zn-DTPA could be beneficial for symptomatic patients with GDD who had retained gadolinium from the gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) that had been administered for their MRIs.   (more…)

FDA Advisory Committee votes to revise warnings for all gadolinium-based contrast agents

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.

Sharon Williams

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