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Flomax Study Points to Eye Damage Following Cataract Surgery

May 20, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Flomax, a drug used to treat men with enlarged prostate, may cause eye damage if it is used within two weeks of  having cataract surgery.  According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), eye damage seen among such Flomax users included detached retina or lost lens.

According to HealthDay, enlarged prostate affects 1 in 3 men over 70.  Many sufferers take Flomax to treat the urinary difficulties the condition causes.  According to WebMD, Flomax is an  alpha-blocker that targets receptors which relax the smooth muscles along the urinary tract, but it also affects similar receptors located in the smooth muscle of the iris in the eye.

For the JAMA study, researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada analyzed medical records of 96,128 men 66 and older who had cataract surgery between 2002 and 2007.  According to HealthDay, 3,550 had taken Flomax in the two weeks before cataract surgery, and 1,006 had taken the drug more than two weeks before their surgery. In addition, 9,109 men had been taking similar drugs.

According to the study, men who took Flomax two weeks before the procedure were 2.3 times more likely to have a serious complication. The researchers found that 284 men experienced complications, HealthDay reported.  Of those, 175 experienced a lost lens or lens fragment that required additional surgery, 35 had retinal detachment and 26 had both complications.  Another 100 had suspected inflammation around the eye.

According to WebMD, men who took Flomax more than 14 days before their surgery, and those who had previous exposure to another alpha-blocker did not appear to have an increased risk of these complications.  The researchers did not determine whether stopping Flomax before cataract surgery reduces the risk of eye complications.

An accompanying editorial in JAMA said the study indicated a need for a close reassessment of Flomax's safety data to determine if a black box warning on this risk is warranted.  The editorial pointed out that, with close to 2 million procedures performed annually, cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed operations in the U.S.   For that reason, the editorial said, the risk cannot be underestimated.

This study is not the first to link Flomax to eye damage following cataract surgery.  According to HealthDay, a study in 2005 found that men taking Flomax or other alpha-blockers before cataract surgery had complications during and immediately after the procedure.  Following that study, the maker of Flomax issued a warning letter to doctors about the problem.  


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