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Proton pump inhibitors are a class of drugs used to treat heartburn, ulcers, acid reflux, and other gastrointestinal issues. Some of the most popular drugs in this category are Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid. These heartburn drugs are frequently promoted by the manufacturers as effective and safe, leading many doctors to continue prescribing these medications. However, patients who take a PPI to alleviate heartburn or acid reflux may experience severe side effects. Recent studies concluded that taking a PPI may be associated with an increased risk for serious, chronic, or even life-threatening side effects, such as:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Acute kidney injury, also called acute renal failure
- The need for kidney transplant
- End-stage renal failure, also called end-stage renal disease
- Interstitial nephritis, a type of inflammation in the kidneys
How Do PPIs Work?
Proton pump inhibitors work by reducing the level of stomach acid produced by the glands in the stomach’s lining. By doing so, PPIs minimize the symptoms of heartburn and the pain caused if stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. This also gives the esophagus appropriate time to heal from previous damage.
These prescription and over-the-counter PPI medications may be associated with an increased risk of serious, life-threatening kidney problems:
- Nexium and Nexium 24 Hour (esomeprazole)
- Prevacid and Prevacid 24 Hour (lansoprazole)
- Prilosec and Prilosec OTC (omeprazole)
- Zegerid and Zegerid OTC (omeprazole with sodium bicarbonate)
- Dexilant and Dexilant SoluTab (dexlansoprazole)
- Protonix (pantoprazole)
- AcipHex and AcipHex Sprinkle (rabeprazole)
Recent Studies Reveal a Connection Between PPI Use and Kidney Injuries
According to recently published studies, taking a PPI may increase an individual’s risk of developing chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, or interstitial nephritis. Your kidneys filter waste and extra fluid from the blood and remove them from your body through your urine. Chronic kidney disease, also called chronic kidney failure, occurs gradually as the kidneys lose their ability to function. As the kidneys lose their ability to function, waste products and excess fluid can accumulate in the body. If the condition progresses, kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant may be required. Left untreated, or if treatment is unsuccessful, the condition can be fatal.
Acute kidney injury, or acute renal failure, occurs suddenly over several hours or days. The kidneys rapidly lose their ability to filter waste products, which may lead to excessively high levels of waste products and fluid imbalances in the body. Patients who suffer from acute kidney injury can also experience cardiovascular complications, such as heart failure, heart attack, or arrythmias, and lung complications, which can be fatal. Acute kidney injury can lead to chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease. Immediate treatment is necessary or the condition can be fatal.
Interstitial nephritis is another type of kidney disorder. This condition is characterized by inflammation in specific tissue in the kidneys, which interferes with how the kidneys function. In severe cases, the inflammation can lead to chronic kidney failure and permanent kidney damage.
Short term use of PPIs has not been linked to any serious side effects. However, those patients who have been using the medication for some time may be at high risk of serious bone fractures as well. The FDA recommends that people do not take more than three different 14-day treatment courses over a one-year period. In one recent study, involving 135 patients over the age of 50, high doses of PPIs taken over the course of 12 months boosted the chances of the patient breaking their hip by more than two and a half times.
PPIs have been aggressively marketed to consumers, and many are available over the counter. Research from the San Francisco Public Health Department shows that these drugs are often prescribed when patients may actually benefit more from diet and lifestyle changes.
PPI Manufacturers Do Not Warn of All Dangerous Side Effects of PPI Use
Although PPI manufacturers provide information about potential side effects and contraindications, they do not warn about the severe, sometimes life-threatening risk of acute kidney or chronic kidney disease associated with these medications.
While the FDA has issued a number of safety warnings regarding PPIs, such as risk of bone fractures, low magnesium levels, and a specific type of gastrointestinal inflammation caused by a particular kind of bacteria, it has not specifically addressed the very real and dangerous possibility of irreparable kidney damage.
Contact Burg Simpson for Help with Your Potential PPI Case
If you have suffered a serious kidney injury as a result of taking a PPI medication, the experienced product liability attorneys at Burg Simpson can help. Contact us today by calling (720) 500-5854 or filling out our FREE case evaluation form.