SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Martial arts actor Chuck Norris and his wife sued pharmaceutical and medical companies and distributors for more than $10 million on Wednesday, claiming they poisoned her with gadolinium, a metal used in MRI scans.
Gena Norris, 54, was hospitalized several times with debilitating pain from the gadolinium, used in a dye injected into MRI patients to enhance images of the scan, according to the lawsuit in Superior Court. She underwent three MRI scans in one week in 2012 to examine her rheumatoid arthritis.
The Norrises say they have spent almost $2 million for treatment of gadolinium deposition disease in the five years since the scan.
The metal is known to stay in parts of the body after being injected, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said this year that it is not harmful to healthy people. Previously, however, the FDA warned that patients with weak kidneys should avoid gadolinium, then warned that even patients without kidney problems could see the metal retained in their bodies.
“Now, almost five years post-gadolinium poisoning, she continues to require regular stem cell therapies and other treatment to heal her central nervous system,” the lawsuit states. “While the Norris family has spent millions of dollars to save Gena’s life, they have had to go outside of mainstream medicine to accomplish this. The FDA has still not approved the most common gadolinium removal treatment, chelation, which patients like Gena must pay for out-of-pocket.”
Chelation involves injecting chemicals to which the unwanted metal bonds, changing its chemical structure. Its use in medicine is controversial.
Despite the FDA’s later announcement this year, its Medical Imaging Drugs Advisory Committee voted in September to add warning labels to gadolinium-based agents used in MRI scans. Such labels would warn patients of the greater risk of gadolinium to children and pregnant women.
Lead defendant McKesson Corp. reported more than $190 billion in revenue last year. Other defendants include Bracco Diagnostics and five of its affiliates, Takeda gmbh, Acist Medical Systems, and Merry X-Ray Chemical Corp. McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. is also a defendant/
Gena Norris called the lawsuit a drastic step she couple had to take in light of lack of response from the defendants.
“Unfortunately, litigation is the only course of action we can take to hold the drug companies accountable for threatening the lives of so many innocent people who undergo MRIs,” Gena Norris said in a statement. “These companies continue to say that there is no link between gadolinium and adverse events, even though the evidence is overwhelming that this heavy metal stays in the body for years, rather than hours.”
The Norrises’ attorneys at Cutter Law, in Sacramento, filed several similar lawsuits in October. The firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The FDA could not be reached for comment after business hours Wednesday.
The Norrises seek compensatory and punitive damages for liability, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraud by concealment, negligence and loss of consortium.
Their lead attorney is Todd Walburg with Cutter Law.