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Promising New Drug Developed by UC San Diego Medical Center Reseacher

Provides Hope for Sufferers of Painful Bladder Syndrome


August 19, 2008  |  

For the millions of sufferers of a bladder condition called painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis, hope is on the way, developed by urologic surgeon and researcher Lowell Parsons, M.D. of the University of California, San Diego Medical Center.

“What our team has identified is an experimental drug therapy that can provide pain relief to patients within 20 minutes,” said Parsons, professor of surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Depending on the individual, in my experience, one dose can last from 6 to 40 hours. The ability of the therapy to provide immediate relief is something entirely new for sufferers of interstitial cystitis.”

“Women who suffer from this condition may find themselves having to urinate ten or more times per day, usually have pain or symptom flares after sexual intercourse, and frequently have chronic pelvic pain,” said Parsons. “Fortunately, given the right diagnosis, it’s treatable.”

The drug therapy, with positive results in a recent Phase 2 study, is a combination of an anesthetic and heparin delivered directly into the bladder via a catheter. The anesthetic provides rapid pain relief while heparin restores the protective mucus layer of the bladder.

Normally the bladder is protected by mucus, a slippery substance made up of mucin, water, cells, and inorganic salts. The layer helps the bladder store urine safely and comfortably. In its absence, irritating urinary salts such as potassium leak into the bladder wall injuring nerves and causing pain.

Triggers for flare ups of interstitial cystitis are sexual intercourse, menstruation, exercise, flying in planes or travel that requires extensive sitting, and pelvic surgery. Parsons estimates that one out of every four women in the U.S. suffers from some form of this condition while 6-8% of men may exhibit symptoms. Children who are late bedwetters sometimes show early signs of the condition.

Currently, one of the most effective treatments for interstitial cystitis is a drug called Elmiron, an FDA-approved drug that has been on the market for more than a decade, which Parsons began developing 30 years ago. Elmiron helps restore or heal the bladder lining and works best by taking the medication over a 6-12 month period. 

The new drug therapy combination has been licensed by UC San Diego Technology Transfer & Intellectual Property Services to Urigen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for further clinical development and commercialization

Parsons diagnoses and treats all urologic disorders, and specializes in caring for patients who have interstitial cystitis (IC).  Internationally recognized as a leading physician and researcher in IC, he has developed major new diagnostic tools and treatments for the disease and has published over 200 medical journal articles and textbook chapters.

Background on Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is part of a chronic disease process that affects the bladder, and may also affect the urethra, or the prostate. A person who has IC may have any one or more of these symptoms in any mix or match:

  • Frequent urination (urinary frequency) -- urinating more than eight times in 24 hours is considered abnormal.
  • The feeling that you need to urinate (urinary urgency).  This feeling can be continuous or urgent or immediate, and often occurs when there are very small amounts of urine in the bladder, and often make it feel like you never empty your bladder.
  • Pain in one or more places anywhere between the belly button and the insides of the thighs, front or back (pelvic pain).  It can be mild or severe, chronic or intermittent, and in one or more locations in the pelvis.

Pelvic pain includes the lower abdomen, the lower back, the urethra, the area between the urethra and the rectum, the labia or the vagina (in women), and the scrotum (in men).  Patients experiencing these symptoms are encouraged to consult an urologist.

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About UC San Diego Health Sciences

UC San Diego Health Sciences encompasses the School of Medicine, the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and UCSD Medical Center – the system of patient services provided at UCSD Medical Center-Hillcrest; UCSD Thornton Hospital-La Jolla; Shiley Eye Center, and the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, one of 39 centers in the United States to hold a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. As a top-ranked academic medical institution, the role of UC San Diego Health Sciences is to consistently provide both local and global leadership in improving health through innovative research, education and patient care.

UC San Diego Technology Transfer & Intellectual Property Services (TechTIPS) transfers university-developed innovations and technology to the commercial sector for the benefit of society. TechTIPS works with commercial partners in the UCSD community, statewide, nationally and globally, which has led to the formation of over 100 startup companies founded with university technologies, and the development over 100 innovations for commercial markets.

Media Contact: Jackie Carr or Kim Edwards, 619-543-6163,, or

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