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According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit filed last week against AstraZenca, information about the kidney injury risks associated with Nexium was withheld from doctors and millions of Americans using the popular heartburn drug.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Clarice Armstrong in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on September 22, indicating that side effects of Nexium caused various kidney injuries that would have been avoided if AstraZeneca had properly disclosed risks associated with their medication.
Nexium (esomeprazole) is one of the most recognized brand-name medications on the market in the United States, prescribed to millions of Americans for treatment of heartburn and acid reflux. It is part of a larger class of medications, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which also includes the blockbuster treatments Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid, Dexilant and others.
Armstrong states that she took Nexium from about July 2013 until January 2016, indicating that neither she nor her doctor knew that taking Nexium would put her kidneys at risk, because the information was not included on the medication’s label warnings.
“Consumers, including the Plaintiff, who have used PPIs for the treatment of increased gastric acid have and had several alternative safer products available to treat the conditions and have not been adequately warned about the significant risks and lack of benefits associated with PPI therapy,” the lawsuit notes. “Defendants, through their affirmative misrepresentations and omissions, actively concealed from Plaintiff and her physicians the true and significant risks associated with PPI use.”
Since AstraZeneca has promoted their medication as safe and effective, and it is widely assumed to carry few serious side effects, many individuals remain on Nexium long-term, using the drug for years without any attempt to reduce reliance on the medication. However, following the publication of several studies in recent years, serious concerns have emerged about risks that users may be more likely to experience severe and potentially life-threatening kidney problems.
In an independent study published by the medical journal CMAJ Open in April 2015, researchers found that users of PPI medications were 3 times more likely to suffer acute interstitial nephritis, which involves inflammation of the kidney. In addition, the study found that users were 2.5 times more likely to develop acute kidney injury, which involves an abrupt loss of kidney function.
This research was followed by a study published last year in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which also found an increased risk of chronic kidney disease with the heartburn medications, indicating that users of Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI may be 50% more likely when compared to non-users.
In April 2016, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs found that users of Nexium, Prilosec or other PPIs may be 96% more likely to develop renal failure and 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease after five years of use.
The case joins a growing number of other Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits, Protonix lawsuits, Prevacid lawsuits and Dexilant lawsuits brought by individuals nationwide in recent months, each raising similar allegations that the drug makers withheld information about the risks associated with long-term use of the medications.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the cases brought throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued an order earlier this month, consolidating all heartburn kidney lawsuits before one judge in New Jersey federal court for pretrial proceedings.
As heartburn drug injury lawyers continue to review and file cases in the coming months and years, it is expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of similar acute interstitial nephritis lawsuits may be filed over the failure to warn about the side effects of Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI medications.