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When a colonoscopy is scheduled (imaging of the lower bowel), there will be better results if the colon is first emptied. To that end, doctors prescribe something that will cleanse the colon, such as Visicol® (liquid to drink) or OsmoPrep (pill). These are made by C.B. Fleet Laboratories, which also makes over-the-counter enemas that some people use.

These drugs contain sodium phosphate, which is a form of phosphorus. Phosphorus is present in every cell of the body; it is essential and normally does no harm. However, when sodium phosphate is taken orally, it travels through the entire digestive system, speeding up the evacuation of waste. In the case of solid waste, this causes diarrhea, which cleans out the colon well for your colonoscopy.

However, the drug components also pass through the kidneys, which make liquid waste (urine). In some people, this has caused kidney damage, either within a few days, or after a few months. The sudden influx of extra phosphate causes phosphate crystals to form in the kidneys and they may become clogged and fail to function.

Kidney failure in this context is called phosphate nephropathy. (Nephro comes from the Greek word nephros for kidney – nephrology is the study of the kidneys – and the suffix “-pathy” refers to dysfunction, as in neuropathy, nerve dysfunction.)

Symptoms of Phosphate Nephropathy

If phosphate nephropathy occurs, you will notice it quickly, although you may not know the reason for these symptoms. You may notice:

  • Bloating
  • Difficulty with urinating
  • Fatigue
  • General malaise or discomfort
  • Low back pain
  • Muscle cramps and/or twitching

Blood pressure may also be high and the heartbeat may become abnormal. In some cases epilepsy develops. Kidney failure will be fatal within a short period if nothing is done.

The damage done by phosphate nephropathy cannot be repaired, so treatments are either kidney dialysis on a permanent basis or a kidney transplant.

FDA Warning Issued

In December 2008, the FDA warned the public that the Fleet Phospho Soda products could be dangerous. They called for a “black box” warning, the most serious type of FDA warning. Fleet then withdrew its over-the-counter versions of Phospho Soda and made them available only through a prescription.

If you have suffered from phosphate nephropathy, you might want to learn more about your legal options. Our defective drug attorneys are experienced in working for people who have been hurt by severe drug side effects and we will be happy to give you a free case evaluation. Please call or email our Mobile, Alabama personal injury law firm today.

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