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Pentosan polysulfate sodium (PPS) is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved oral medication for treating IC/BPS. A recent study within the Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) system suggested that a substantial number of patients with IC/BPS (up to 42%) take long-term PPS.
Although a recent administrative claims report did not identify an association between use of PPS and maculopathy, the mean duration of PPS use among study subjects was less than 1 year, and PPS maculopathy typically develops after many years of exposure to PPS.
At Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minnesota, we recently identified 4 cases of PPS maculopathy. All affected patients were women 43 to 63 years of age who had been taking the medication for longer than 5 years. Two patients had PPS prescriptions most recently renewed by their primary medical care providers, which stimulated our interest in investigating the profile of the PPS prescribers. We performed a system-wide review of electronic medical records within Mayo Clinic (including Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona, as well as the Mayo Clinic Health System) and identified 319 prescriptions of PPS submitted in the past 36 months. More than one-half of all PPS prescriptions were from non-urologists, with more than one-third being submitted by general medical physicians: internal medicine and family medicine (Figure, panel B).
The KPNC study highlighted the significant prevalence of PPS-associated maculopathy in 23% of patients taking PPS.
Our data indicate that general medical practitioners are commonly prescribing or renewing this medication. Yet, there is a paucity of reports regarding PPS ocular toxicity in the general medical literature, and we believe that a rapid increase in awareness among all clinicians will be important to reduce the risk of irreversible loss of vision.
Caution should be exercised in renewing prescriptions for patients on long-term PPS pharmacotherapy. Because of the recent recognition of this ocular pathology, and incomplete understanding of its development and progression, no official screening guidelines have yet been established. However, based on the available data, some authors have recommended ophthalmic screening of patients when the cumulative PPS dose approaches or exceeds 500 g.
We also encourage discussion of this side effect with patients, a review of past medical and ocular history, inquiry regarding any visual symptoms or changes, and prompt ophthalmologic referral in case of any concerns—even at low doses—to allow for early detection of maculopathy, which may reduce the risk of irreversible loss of vision.
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