Nexium, Zantac, Other Heartburn Drugs Increase C. Diff Infection Risks, Study Warns

Another study is warning that the use of popular heartburn drugs, such as Nexium, Prilosec, Zantac and others, may cause users to face an increased the risk of Clostridium Difficille, or C. Diff, infections. 

Researchers with the Mayo Clinic indicate that both proton pump inhibitors, which include the blockbuster drugs Nexium, Priloec, Prevacid and others, as well as H2 receptor antagonists, which include Zantac and Tagamet, appear to be linked to a C. Diff infection (CDI) risk.

The findings were published this week in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, raising concerns about both major classes of gastric acid suppressant medications, or heartburn drugs. More patients in the study who took the medications developed a recurring C. Diff infection than those who did not.

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Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) includes the most widely used drugs on the market in the United States, working 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 in recent years, including both a risk of infections, as well as kidney problems.

H2 receptor antagonists are an older class of heartburn drugs, which include medications like Pepcid AC, Zantac and Tagamet. While these drugs have not been linked to the same risk of kidney injuries, this research does suggest that users may also face a C. Diff infection risk.

This new research looked at data from 16 observational studies, encompassing 7,703 patients with C. diff infections. They found that, overall, 19.8% of those patients developed recurring C. diff infections, which returned over time. However, when researchers looked at just patients who took heartburn drugs, 22.1% of those patients developed recurring infections, compared to only 17.3% of patients who did not use heartburn drugs suffering from the recurring infections.

“Meta-analyses of observational studies suggest that patients who receive gastric acid suppressants may be at increased risk for recurrent CDI,” the researchers concluded. “It may be reasonable to re-evaluate the need for these medications in patients with CDI.”

The findings are similar to a study published in January, which indicated that there is nearly three times the risk of a C. diff infection or a Campylobacter infection among heartburn drug users.

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.

C. Diff infections (CDI) 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.


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