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The findings of new research suggest that side effects of popular heartburn drugs, such as Nexium, Prilosec, Zantac and others, may triple the risk of gastrointestinal infections, such as C. difficule and Campylobacter.
In a study published this month in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland indicate that there were increased rates of the serious stomach infections seen among users of medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI) and H2 receptor antagonists, which are collectively known as acid suppression medicines (ASMs).
Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) are a widely used class of drugs, including blockbuster brand names like Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid and others. The medications work by reducing the amount of stomach acid produced, helping prevent symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. While the drugs are widely believed to be safe, and often used for years by consumers, a number of studies have raised concerns about the potential side effects of the heartburn drugs.
H2 receptor antagonists are an older class of heartburn drugs, which include Pepcid AC, Zantac and Tagamet.
In this latest study, researchers looked at data on 188,323 people exposed to PPIs and H2 receptor antagonists, and compared them to 376,646 control subjects between 1999 and 2013.
According to the findings, there was nearly three times the risk of C. difficile and Campylobacter infections among heartburn drug users. The increases occurred among patients in hospitals who were given the drugs and among those who were not hospitalized while taking the drugs.
Researchers did not find an increased risk of some other types of infections, however, including salmonella, E. Coli and Shigella.
“The results suggest that community prescribed ASMs were associated with increased rates of C. difficile and Campylobacter positive gastroenteritis in both the community and hospital settings,” the researchers concluded.
The findings appear similar to a number of other recent studies linking heartburn drugs to increased infection risks.
In November 2014, a report published in the medical journal Microbiome indicated that long-term use of Nexium and similar drugs could reduce the microbial diversity in the body, lowering its ability to fight off c. diff infections.
CDIs can lead to Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD), causing persistent diarrhea, water stool, abdominal pain and fever. It can eventually lead to more severe intestinal problems if not treated in a timely manner.
The FDA first warned of the link between drugs like Nexium and Prilosec and C. diff infections in a drug safety communication issued in February 2012, advising doctors to be aware of the potential connection when presented with patients taking heartburn medications whose diarrhea does not improve.
PPI Kidney Failure Risks
The findings come amid increasing concerns about a potential link between heartburn drugs and kidney problems, with a number of studies suggesting that use of PPI medications may increase the risk of acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease and potentially kidney failure.
In late 2014, the FDA added further heartburn drug warnings about the risk of C. Diff associated diarrhea, and also indicated at that time that the medications have been linked to reports of acute interstitial nephritis, which involves kidney inflammation that may lead to more serious problems.
According to a study published by the medical journal CMAJ Open in April 2015, researchers indicated that users of Nexium, Prilosec or other heartburn drugs face an increased risk of kidney injury, which may lead to kidney failure.
This research was followed by a study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2016, which found that users also face an increased risk of chronic kidney disease from heartburn drugs.
Those findings were supported by another study published in April 2016, in which researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs found that users of Nexium, Prilosec or other PPIs may be 96% more likely to develop kidney failure and 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease after five years of use.“
A number of individuals throughout the United States who have suffered acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease or renal failure are now pursuing potential Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits and other claims against makers of proton pump inhibitors (PPI), alleging that the risk of kidney problems should have been included among warnings provided to consumers and the medical community.