Cerebellar Atrophy and Dilantin - Consumer Justice Foundation

Cerebellar Atrophy and Dilantin

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Patients taking phenytoin for epilepsy may be at risk for cerebellar atrophy side effects. Contact an experienced attorney today if you believe you have been harmed by side effects of phenytoin.

A growing body of research has linked long-term use of the anticonvulsant drug phenytoin (Dilantin) to an alleged increased risk of permanent cerebellar atrophy. According to studies, individuals who take phenytoin for long periods of time as a treatment for epilepsy may face a significantly increased risk of suffering irreversible deterioration of the cerebellum. If you or a loved one took phenytoin or Dilantin in the past, and you have since been diagnosed with cerebellar atrophy, our consumer advocates at the Consumer Justice Foundation can help. We are committed to protecting the rights of consumers harmed by allegedly defective medications, and can help put you in touch with a reputable Dilantin attorney who has experience handling cerebellar atrophy claims.

What is Cerebellar Atrophy?

A degenerative disorder with permanent effects on the brain possibly caused by Dilantin therapy.

Cerebellar atrophy is medical condition characterized by degeneration of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that is responsible for posture, balance and voluntary muscle movements. Individuals diagnosed with cerebellar atrophy typically experience symptoms like unsteady gait, trouble speaking or swallowing, and poor muscle control, which may onset slowly or rapidly, depending on the cause of the cerebellar degeneration. In some cases, cerebellar atrophy may result in debilitating complications like weakness on one side of the body or difficulty controlling the hands for tasks requiring fine motor skills. Other possible signs of cerebellar atrophy may include:

  • Slow and slurred speech
  • Slow, unsteady, jerking movements in the arms or legs
  • Unsteady, lurching walk
  • Back and forth tremors in the main part of the body
  • Small rapid movements in the eyes (nystagmus)

Three Developing Stages of Cerebellar Atrophy

The initial stage, characterized by symptoms like dizziness while walking, inflexibility of movement, lack of coordination in the legs when climbing stairs, swinging body at standing position, difficulty of judging distance and difficulty of moving the eyes.

The middle stage, characterized by symptoms like inability to control body posture and gait, slurring speech, writing difficulty, loss of coordination, and aggravated heaviness and incoordination of the limbs and muscle.

The advanced stage, characterized by symptoms like impairment of intelligence, unclearness or loss of speech, difficulty swallowing, inability to stand or sit, written words that can’t be understood or distinguished.

Who May Be at Risk for Cerebellar Atrophy?

Cerebellar atrophy may have a number of possible causes, including degenerative neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and transmissible spongiform encephalitis, or strokes and brain injuries that injure or kill brain cells in large numbers. In some cases though, cerebellar atrophy may be the result of exposure to certain pharmaceutical drugs like Dilantin (phenytoin), an anticonvulsant medication manufactured by Pfizer and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982. Phenytoin was the first modern anticonvulsant drug developed, and is commonly prescribed to individuals diagnosed with epilepsy, to help treat and prevent seizures by slowing down impulses in the brain that cause seizures.

There is no cure for cerebellar atrophy, although damage to the brain can sometimes be slowed or stopped altogether with a combination of medication therapy, surgery and nutritional support. Treatment for cerebellar atrophy is two-pronged and involves identifying the cause of the degeneration and providing support to help the patient adjust to the damage. Physical therapy can sometimes help improve motor control, and mobility aids like canes may be necessary for some patients. The main goal of treatment for cerebellar atrophy is to increase mobility so patients can reach the highest level of independence possible.

FDA, Cerebellar Atrophy and Drugs During Pregnancy

January 2016 – Of the 11,836 Dilantin-related adverse event reports submitted to the FDA, there are nine cases of phenytoin-induced cerebellar atrophy.

Cerebellar Atrophy Birth Defect Studies

August 1994 – The Archives of Neurology publishes the first study examining the potential link between phenytoin treatment and cerebellar atrophy, and finds “a group difference between the phenytoin-exposed epilepsy population and the controls, as the patients had significantly smaller cerebelli.”

December 2000 – A four-year-old boy experienced cerebellar atrophy possibly caused by high levels of phenytoin in his system while taking the anticonvulsant drug for epilepsy, according to research published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine.

July 2003 – A study published in the medical journal Seizure involving 56 epilepsy patients who used phenytoin for more than two months finds that cerebellar atrophy is frequently associated with long-term use of phenytoin. They also report that “patients with moderate/severe atrophy were those with longer exposure to phenytoin (longer duration of treatment and higher total dosage).”

November 2013 – The Indian Journal of Pharmacology publishes research documenting phenytoin-induced cerebellar atrophy in a 16-year-old boy with a history of seizures.

Why We Think Drug Manufacturers Should be Held Liable for Cerebellar Atrophy Injuries

Dilantin is one of the first-line anticonvulsant medications prescribed to individuals struggling with epileptic seizures, and research has shown that long-term exposure to the anti-epileptic drug may result in cerebellar atrophy, possibly caused by an accumulation of phenytoin in the cerebral cortex over long periods of time. Studies linking long-term phenytoin therapy to an increased risk of cerebellar atrophy date back more than two decades, and as more and more consumers become aware of the potential for phenytoin (Dilantin) to cause cerebellar atrophy side effects, it is expected that product liability lawsuits will be filed, alleging:

  • Manufacture of a defective and unreasonably dangerous drug
  • Failure to provide adequate warnings about the potential for phenytoin to cause cerebellar atrophy
  • Failure to adequately research the long-term risks of the medication
  • Failure to disclose the results of studies showing adverse effects from phenytoin therapy
  • Failure to act responsibly and in the best interest of the public

What should you do? If your child has suffered cerebellar atrophy, you should contact a lawyer to discuss filing a birth defect lawsuit.

Without accurate and up-to-date information about the potential side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, consumers are unable to make educated decisions about what medications are safe for them and their loved ones to take. Unfortunately, for individuals with epilepsy, Dilantin is one of the go-to treatment options to control tonic-clonic seizures and partial seizures, and many patients are unaware of the potential for long-term phenytoin therapy to cause cerebellar atrophy side effects in users. If you believe you have been adversely affected by alleged side effects of phenytoin (Dilantin), consult an experienced product liability lawyer today to explore your possible compensation options. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, which you can pursue by filing a phenytoin lawsuit against the drug manufacturing company.

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