OptiMARK Gadolinium Contrast Agent Label Changed Over NSF Risk

The maker of OptiMARK gadolinium contrast agent is modifying the product’s label to contraindicate its use in patients with severe kidney impairment because of its association with nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). Mallinckrodt Inc., a Covidien company, has submitted this label change to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and says it is implementing the new label in the U.S. effective immediately.

Gadolinium contrast dyes are approved for use in MRI procedures, and are sometimes used off-label in MRA studies. These agents were first introduced in the 1980s, and there are currently five such dyes on the market. In addition OptiMARK, other agents on the market include Prohance and Multihance, both by Bracco Diagnostics, Bayer Healthcare’s Magnevist and GE Healthcare’s Omniscan.

NSF is a debilitating disease that leads to excessive formation of connective tissue in the skin and internal organs. It is characterized by high blood pressure, burning, itching, swelling and hardening of the skin. Other symptoms include red or dark patches on the skin; pain deep in the hip bones or ribs and muscle weakness. NSF can progress to the point of causing severe stiffness in joints, and it can lead to death.

It appears that NSF only develops in people with pre-existing kidney disease. In September 2007, the FDA asked the manufacturers of all gadolinium contrast dyes to add a black box warning to the product labels about its association with NSF. The FDA also warned that patients with kidney disease should avoid gadolinium contrast agents, and that the lowest possible dosage should be administered to such patients if use of the dyes cannot be avoided.

Yesterday, we reported that an FDA review had found that OptiMARK, Magnevist and Omniscan carried a higher risk of NSF than other gadolinium agents on the market. Though the agency’s drug safety unit said the risk associated with the gadolinium contrast dyes “does not compel removal of specific (imaging agents) from the U.S. market”, it has recommended that the drug labels note the varying levels of risks with each product. An outside panel of experts will take up the issue in December.

In a statement released by Covidien yesterday, the company said it is implementing its OptiMARK label change in all countries where OptiMARK contrast agent has been approved for sale, in accordance with local regulatory requirements. Covidien also will update its educational materials to help physicians make informed decisions regarding the appropriate use of OptiMARK.

“For the small percentage of the U.S. population – less than 0.5 percent – with severe renal impairment, we believe it is prudent to act now, rather than wait for a causal link between GBCAs (gadolinium based contrast agents) and NSF to be established. Although the label already advises caution when using GBCAs with these patients, we are voluntarily taking this next step to help ensure this small, at-risk population does not receive administration of a contrast agent that could pose a risk of NSF.” said Dr. Herbert Neuman, Vice President, Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, Pharmaceuticals, Covidien.

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