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Amid growing concerns in recent years about the risk of kidney problems from Nexium, Prilosec and similar acid reflux drugs, new research provides further evidence that users of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) may be more likely to develop chronic kidney disease and end-stage kidney failure.
In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, researchers working with the Veterans Affairs Clinical Epidemiology Center and local universities set out to compare the acid reflux drug kidney risks among users of PPIs and a different class of heartburn drugs, known as histamine H2-receptor antagonists, or H2 blockers,.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) include some of the most widely used brand name medications in the U.S., including Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid, Dexilant, AcipHex and others. These drugs work by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach and are widely used by millions of Americans, since they are thought to carry few serious side effects.
Researchers examined data from Department of Veteran Affairs national databases to identify 173,321 people who used a PPI, and compared them to a group of 20,270 people who received an H2 blocker, which includes other heartburn medications like Zantac, Pepcid, Tagamet, Tazac and Axid.
After following patients for five years to ascertain renal outcomes, researchers 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.
Over the five year period, 15% of all PPI users developed chronic kidney disease. The researchers also found what they called a “graded” association between the length of PPI exposure and the overall risk of kidney problems, suggesting that the longer the medications are taken, the greater the risk.
The findings are particularly troubling since many users remain on Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI acid reflux drugs for long periods of time, since they are concerned that heartburn symptoms will return and they believe the medications carry little risk. In addition, with Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI products now widely available over-the-counter, the number of kidney problems may be substantially underreported.
Risk of Kidney Injury, Kidney Disease and Kidney Failure
The study was launched since Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI drugs are known to carry a risk of acute interstitial nephritis and acute kidney injury, but research is continuing to emerge about the risk of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
The FDA required a number of warning label changes for Nexium, Prilosec and other PPis in December 2014, adding information for the first time about the risk of acute interstitial nephritis seen among users of the acid reflux drugs. This condition involves inflammation that can lead to kidney injury or kidney failure if not promptly treated.
In April 2015, a study published in the medical journal CMAJ Open found that side effects of the acid reflux drugs may also the risk of acute kidney injury, which involves an abrupt loss of kidney function.
That research was followed by a study published earlier this year in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which also found an increased risk of chronic kidney disease with use of proton pump inhibitors. That study suggested that users of Nexium, Prilosec and other heartburn drugs may face a 50% higher kidney disease risk when compared to non-users.
While this latest study does not establish a causal connection, researchers indicate that the findings provide further evidence of the kidney risks with Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI heartburn medications. As a result, long-term users of the medications are being urged to discuss with their doctors whether it is necessary to continue using the drugs.
The findings also come as individuals throughout the United States are now pursuing potential Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits and other claims against makers of the medications, alleging that they placed their desire for profits before consumers safety by withholding information about the potential kidney risks from consumers and the medical community.
Plaintiffs allege that if warnings had been provided about the risk of acute kidney injury, chronic kidney injury and kidney failure, many individuals may have been able to avoid these severe and potentially life-threatening injuries.
As acid reflux drug injury lawyers continue to review and file cases, it is expected that thousands of cases could be filed in the coming months.