Elmiron, the brand-name for the drug pentosan polysulfate sodium (PPS), is used to treat interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic and incurable bladder condition. IC, which primarily affects women, causes mild to severe pain and pressure in the bladder area. Having IC is like having a bladder infection that never goes away, and the condition can also cause lower urinary tract symptoms and pain during sex. IC is also known as bladder pain syndrome (BPS). Currently, Elmiron is the only drug approved by the FDA specifically to treat IC, though there are other medications and treatments.
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According to Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Johnson & Johnson), the drug’s manufacturer, IC is believed to be caused by damage to the bladder’s lining. Painful symptoms arise because substances in the urine irritate the damaged spots. Pentosan polysulfate sodium, the Elmiron drug, is a blood thinner. PPS seems to attach to the bladder wall, protecting the damaged areas of the bladder wall from outside irritants. In this way, Elmiron is sort of like a band-aid, in how covering a cut with a band-aid immediately relieves pain and prevents it from further irritation.