On Monday a suit against Bayer Healthcare will begin in January, in front of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow.
Peter Gerber's lawsuit accuses Bayer of negligently designing, testing and marketing Magnevist, a drug used to help doctors read MRIs, is one of hundreds of suits in California and elsewhere alleging that diagnostic drugs containing gadolinium have caused nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. And according to Gerber's lawyer, his suit is the first to be scheduled for trial.
Magnevist is a contrast agent used to improve magnetic resonance imaging. In 2007 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requested that gadolinium-based agents such as Magnevist carry boxed warnings about the risk of contracting nephrogenic systemic fibrosis for patients with kidney problems.
Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) or nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy is a rare and serious syndrome that involves fibrosis of skin, joints, eyes, and internal organs. Its cause is not fully understood, but it seems to be associated with exposure to gadolinium (which is frequently used as a contrast substance for MRIs) in patients with severe kidney failure. It does not have a genetic basis.
In NSF, patients develop large areas of hardened skin with fibrotic nodules and plaques. Flexion contractures with an accompanying limitation of range of motion can also occur. NSF resembles scleromyxedema at the histologic (microscopic) level; it shows a proliferation of dermal fibroblasts and dendritic cells, thickened collagen bundles, increased elastic fibers, and deposits of mucin.
Most patients with NSF have undergone hemodialysis for renal failure, some have never undergone dialysis and others have received only peritoneal dialysis. Many patients have taken immunosuppressive medications and have other diseases, such as hepatitis C. Four of the five gadolinium contrast agents approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been principally implicated in NSF, including Omniscan, Multihance, Magnevist, and OptiMARK.
The first cases of NSF were identified in 1997.