Study Links Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and Other Proton Pump Inhibitors to Chronic Kidney Disease

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Written By: Jeffrey JohnsonUPDATED: Jul 15, 2021Fact Checked

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are among the most widely prescribed medications in the United States. They are commonly used to treat conditions that are caused or exacerbated by excess stomach acid, including gastric and duodenal ulcers, dyspepsia, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. The three most popular brand names of PPIs in the American market are Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid.

Until recently, conventional medical opinion held that PPIs were safe to prescribe. A growing body of persuasive evidence has now convinced medical researchers that PPIs are associated with a number of adverse health conditions. The most recent addition to that list is chronic kidney disease. Patients who developed chronic kidney disease after taking PPIs may be entitled to compensation.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

Proton pump inhibitors interfere with the secretion of gastric acid in the parietal cells of the stomach. The drugs may therefore be helpful in treating conditions that are characterized by excess stomach acid. They are also used to prevent gastrointestinal bleeding in patients who are undergoing antiplatelet therapy. Unlike antacids, which neutralize stomach acid, PPIs decrease its production.

At least 15 million Americans take PPIs. Generic names for PPIs include omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), and lansoprazole (Prevacid). Many PPIs are only available by prescription, although some versions are sold over the counter. The over-the-counter versions contain lower doses of PPIs and are generally intended for a course of treatment lasting no more than 14 days, up to 3 times per year.

Since the drugs were approved in the late 1980s, a growing body of evidence has linked PPIs to a number of health risks. Because PPIs interfere with the ability of bones to absorb calcium, they have been associated with an increased risk of hip fractures as well as broken bones in the wrist and spine. They may also cause pneumonia and dementia, and pose at least a mild risk of increasing a patient’s likelihood of having a heart attack. The most recent health risk linked to PPIs involves kidney disease.

PPIs and Chronic Kidney Disease

Medical researchers recently confirmed that PPIs are associated with chronic kidney disease. A major study published in the February 2016 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine examined more than 10,000 participants in an ongoing investigation of atherosclerosis. Health data has been collected from those participants for more than a decade. The study also reviewed data gathered over a period of six years from more than 248,000 patients in Pennsylvania who were given outpatient prescriptions for PPIs.

The researchers determined that patients who used PPIs had a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease than patients who did not use the drug. The study also found that taking PPIs twice a day, rather than once a day, increased that risk.

Kidneys filter blood to remove waste products and excess fluid. Kidneys eliminate waste from the body through urine. That process is critical to the body’s ability to maintain a proper balance of chemicals. Kidneys also produce essential hormones that stimulate red blood cell production, regulate blood pressure, and control the metabolism of calcium.

Chronic kidney disease is a condition that impairs the ability of kidneys to serve those functions. The disease can result in an unhealthy buildup of chemicals in the blood, including potassium, salt, and acids. Patients with chronic kidney disease may eventually suffer from anemia, high blood pressure, weak bones, and heart disease. In most cases, the condition worsens gradually over time. It may ultimately lead to kidney failure.

Before the recent study confirmed the role that PPIs play in causing chronic kidney disease, PPIs were recognized as contributing to acute interstitial nephritis, a kidney disorder that is typically a side effect of medications to which a patient has an allergy. A 2015 study of interstitial nephritis concluded that PPIs are “an underappreciated cause of acute kidney injury.”

Implications for Patients Who Take PPIs

The most recent study concluded that 70% of patients who are prescribed Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, or another PPI may not need the drug. The study also concluded that 25% of patients who have taken a PPI on a long-term basis could discontinue their use of the drug without adverse health consequences.

Medical researchers now agree that PPIs are overprescribed in the United States. Leading physicians who have studied PPIs warn doctors that too many patients are taking PPIs “for no clear reason,” including mild or temporary bouts of heartburn. Doctors have been advised to stop using PPIs as they evaluate whether a patient’s symptoms can be treated in other ways. While some patients benefit from PPIs, doctors have also been cautioned to minimize risks by prescribing the lowest effective dose needed to treat the patient.

Patients who are taking a PPI, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, should consult their physician to determine whether they need the drug and, if so, whether they are taking the lowest effective dose. Patients who have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease after taking a PPI should talk to a personal injury lawyer who handles pharmaceutical cases to determine whether they are entitled to compensation.

Legal claims against drug manufacturers for diseases caused by Nexium, Prevacid, or Prilosec are subject to deadlines. As soon as a patient who has taken a PPI is diagnosed with a kidney disease, the patient should consult a personal injury law firm that handles product liability cases against drug companies. If you may have been injured by a PPI, it is essential to act promptly to preserve your right to receive compensation.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
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