Actor Chuck Norris claims a contrasting agent used in his wife’s MRI poisoned her and made her very sick.
He and his wife, Gena, sued three makers of the agent, a rare earth metal known as gadolinium, last November seeking $10 million in damages.
And the Norrises aren’t the only ones taking legal action.
Just recently, another California man, Jeffrey Steiner, filed a gadolinium lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of California, alleging he was poisoned by gadolinium during several MRIs.
The Norris and Steiner cases are still pending in San Francisco.
After the Norrises filed suit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has increased its warnings about the dangers of gadolinium and researches have published studies giving new insight.
In May, the FDA approved new medication guides for all gadolinium-based contrasting agents (GBCAs).
The agency in December required new warnings and other safety measures for all GBCAs in MRIs. The FDA warnings concern gadolinium remaining in patients’ bodies long-term following injections.
The agency required GBCA manufacturers to conduct human and animal studies on the safety of the contrasting agents. The agency said it’s continuing to evaluate the safety of the heavy metal and will disclose information as it becomes available.
The contrasting agents are used with MRI scans to examine the body for the existence of things like cancer, infections or bleeding. The GCBAs are injected into a vein to help improve the ability of health care professionals to see internal organs, blood vessels and tissue during an MRI.
The FDA says that GCBAs are mostly eliminated from the body through the kidneys, but trace amounts may remain behind long term. According to the medication guides, gadolinium can remain in the brain, bones, skin and other parts of the body for several months, even years.
According to the FDA, the only known health effect linked to gadolinium retention is a rare condition, nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). This condition is a disease of fibrosis of the skin and internal organs similar to scleroderma. It is seen in a small subgroup of patients with pre-existing kidney failure.
The agency says it has also received reports of adverse events involving multiple organ systems in patients with normal kidney function.
People who get many doses of gadolinium medicines, women who are pregnant and young children may be at increased risk of harm gadolinium staying in the body.
The higher risk for patients with impaired kidney function was confirmed in a study published in July in the European Journal of Radiology. That study found that patients on dialysis had higher retention of gadolinium in their bodies than patients who weren’t on dialysis.
Information related to the prevalence of gadolinium retention in the body may be limited because few radiologists report when it occurs, according to the results of a worldwide survey published in February in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.
That survey found 58 percent of radiologists do not or would not report when gadolinium remains in the brain. The most common reason given for not disclosing this fact was to prevent unnecessary patient anxiety.
According to Gena and Chuck Norris’ lawsuit, Gena Norris developed Gadolinium Deposition Disease following a routine MRI procedure. She’s been repeatedly hospitalized for debilitating pain and burning throughout her body. She also has cognitive deficits, kidney damage, loss of energy and the ability to move around and trouble breathing because of damage to her ribs.
Gena Norris has had to go outside of mainstream medicine to treat the condition, the lawsuit says. The most common treatment to remove gadolinium, chelation, is not approved by the FDA. Chelation involves injecting medication that binds to metals in the bloodstream.
The medication and the metals are then filtered through the kidneys and released in urine.
The Norrises say in their lawsuit that they have had to spend close to $2 million to treat Gena Norris’ condition.
Steiner, the California man who recently filed suit, says in his complaint that he developed fibrosis in his organs, skin and bones, and has retained gadolinium in the neurons of his brain. He says he had normal kidney function at the time of his MRIs.
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