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While a number of independent studies have been published over the past few years suggesting a link between Nexium and acute interstitial nephritis (AIN), lawsuits filed by individuals nationwide allege that AstraZeneca has known about the kidney damage risk associated with their blockbuster heartburn medication for years.
Nexium is the most widely used member of a popular class of heartburn medications, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI), which also includes popular drugs like Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Dexilant, AcipHex and others.
Most consumers and doctors assume the medications are safe, which is why many individuals remain on Nexium or other PPI drugs for years, with little or no effort to reduce use of the medications. However, a growing body of research suggests that users may face an increased risk of kidney injury, kidney disease, kidney failure or other problems from side effects of proton pump inhibitors.
The FDA first issued a warning that Nexium, Prilosec and other proton pump inhibitors could cause kidney damage in December 2014, adding information for the first time about a medical condition known as acute interstitial nephritis, which involves inflammation of the kidney that can lead to more severe medical problems.
Shortly after the label warning was added, a study was published in the medical journal CMAJ in April 2015, confirming that individuals who started using Nexium or another PPI drug had a 3 times higher risk of acute interstitial nephritis when compared to those who did not use the drugs. The study also found users may face a 2.5 times higher risk of experiencing acute kidney injury, which involves an abrupt loss of kidney function.
Additional studies published this year have built on these findings, linking the popular drugs to other severe kidney problems that may be caused by the acute interstitial nephritis side effects of Nexium, including chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage kidney failure.
Amid these recent studies, a growing number of Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits, Prevacid lawsuits, Protonix lawsuits and Dexilant lawsuits are being investigated nationwide, alleging the drug makers failed to adequately research the medications or warn about the health risks.
According to allegations raised in several of the complaints, research dating back to 1992 should have raised alarm about the acute interstitial nephritis risk with Nexium and other PPI medications.
University of Arizona Health Sciences Center researchers published a case study that year in the American Journal of Medicine, warning that Nexium (omeprazole) appeared to cause AIN in some cases. In the report, a 74-year-old woman was admitted to the center due to acute renal failure. The doctors noted that six months before the incident, she had been prescribed Nexium for epigastric burning and recurrent esophageal ulceration. She was diagnosed as having drug-induced acute interstitial nephritis, and all of her medications were discontinued.
When her gastric problems returned, she was again placed on Nexium, and her kidneys began to fail once again.
“Our patient presented in renal failure with eosinophiluria after taking omeprazole on a regular basis for 6 months,” the researchers noted. “Her renal failure and eosinophiluria spontaneously resolved after discontinuation of the omeprazole, only to return again after two doses when the omeprazole was restarted. Resolution of her renal failure and eosinophiluria again occurred after cessation of the medication.”
Doctors said it was clear that Nexium caused her kidneys to fail, as none of the other drugs she was taking were reinitiated. They warned that Nexium, which was fairly new at the time, was likely to increase in popularity, and that doctors should be aware of the association between Nexium and AIN. However, it would be another 22 years before AstraZeneca provide label warnings for consumers or doctors about the risk of kidney damage with Nexium.
As more and more individuals learn that a diagnosis of acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease or kidney failure may have been caused by acute interstitial nephritis (AIN from Nexium or another PPI, it is widely expected that thousands of additional complaints will be filed in courts nationwide over the coming months and years.