Concerns over the toxic side effects potentially associated with gadolinium-based MRI contrast dyes have spread to the United Kingdom, where a growing number of patients have called on the National Health Service (NHS) to take action to protect public health.
“It was awful,” Dr Catriona Walsh recently told SKY News. “For six months I felt like I was circling a drain, very anxious about my future because with my medical background I knew that free gadolinium is very, very toxic and can come away, so you have free gadolinium causing havoc in your system.”
Dr. Walsh began to experience symptoms of gadolinium toxicity shortly after she underwent an MRI. At one point, she even had to leave her job as a pediatrician in Belfast.
Richard, who did not use his full name, was confined to the hospital for several weeks after an MRI. His symptoms, which included twitching muscles, pain and exhaustion, mystified doctors.
“I had fibromyalgia thrown at me, ME, which is chronic fatigue syndrome, and then the presumption was that it was motor neuron disease,” he remembered.
At one point, Richard’s physician even told his pregnant wife that he would likely die.
Finally, urine tests confirmed high levels of gadolinium in Richard’s body.
“The NHS has a duty to tell people that this stuff retains in the system. We know it causes a very serious condition in NSF, so people should at the very least be informed,” he said.
All patients in the United Kingdom must sign a consent form prior to an MRI. However, the form does not include any information on gadolinium retention or potentially toxic side effects.
Last year, the country’s Medicines Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) did suspend approval for several gadolinium contrast agents because of limited data on their long-term health effects. The agency also imposed restrictions on the gadolinium-based MRI contrast dyes that remain on the market.
Among other things, the MHRA recommends that doctors only prescribe gadolinium agents when absolutely necessary and at that lowest dose possible.
Gadolinium-based contrast dyes enhance the appearance of images on an MRI or MRA scan.
In 2007, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned that such agents should not administered to patients with impaired kidney function, as their inability to eliminate gadolinium from the body could lead to a potentially deadly disorder called Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis, or NFS.
Until recently, however the medical community considered gadolinium safe for patients with healthy kidneys. But in the past several years, mounting studies have suggested that gadolinium is also retained in those with normal renal function.
Just one year ago, in fact, the FDA ordered contrast dye manufacturers to add information about gadolinium retention to their product labels. In addition, the agency mandated that the drug companies conduct animal and human studies to better assess their safety and effectiveness.
The FDA has not concluded that gadolinium retention poses any health risks to patients with healthy kidneys.
However, a growing number of plaintiffs in the United States have filed MRI contrast dye lawsuits that seek compensation for symptoms and ailments allegedly associated with gadolinium toxicity.
According to these lawsuits, plaintiffs suffer from Gadolinium Deposition Disease, a disorder that causes at least one of following symptoms: