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Chronic Kidney Disease Linked to Proton Pump Inhibitors — Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid

Recent medical research links chronic kidney disease to proton pump inhibitors. Widely prescribed medications, including Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium, may cause kidney damage, particularly in patients who have used the drug long-term or in high doses.

Patients who began to suffer from chronic kidney disease or any other kidney dysfunction after taking a proton pump inhibitor should seek legal advice. You may be entitled to compensation in light of new evidence that your serious kidney problems may have been caused by a proton pump inhibitor.

What is a proton pump inhibitor?

A proton pump inhibitor (PPI) is a drug that reduces the body’s production of stomach acid by blocking an acid-manufacturing enzyme in the stomach wall. Patients with ulcers often receive a prescription for a PPI to prevent the formation of new ulcers while giving existing ulcers time to heal.

Proton pump inhibitors are also used to treat other conditions related to excess stomach acid, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Some people take PPIs to manage heartburn and other symptoms of indigestion.

All PPIs work in similar ways. The most common PPIs marketed in the United States are Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), and Nexium (esomeprazole). Over-the-counter versions of PPIs contain lower doses and are intended for short-term use. Prescription PPIs typically involve higher doses. Some patients take prescription PPIs for months or years.

What are the risks of taking a PPI?

Proton pump inhibitors have been prescribed by doctors for more than 25 years. For several years after their initial development, doctors considered PPIs to be a safe drug. Over time, medical researchers began to discover evidence that PPIs can cause significant health problems.

Possible side effects of PPI use suggested by medical literature include:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia.
  • Bone density loss resulting in an increased risk of bone fractures.
  • Hypomagnesemia (depletion of the body’s supply of magnesium).
  • Vitamin B12
  • Pneumonia
  • Bacterial infections and related diseases.

Many doctors believe that the risks associated with those potential side-effects can be managed by monitoring the patient, adjusting dosages or discontinuing the drug when necessary, and prescribing supplements (such as iron, B12, and magnesium) in appropriate cases. Controlling the risk of developing kidney disease, however, may be more problematic.

How is PPI use associated with chronic kidney disease?

Medical researchers first became concerned about the relationship between PPIs and kidney disease when a study provided evidence that PPI use is associated with a relatively rare condition known as acute interstitial nephritis. Later studies confirmed the relationship between PPIs and that kidney disease.

More recently, medical researchers conducted a comprehensive study of patients who were taking PPIs. The researchers found that patients who took PPIs were significantly more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than comparable patients who had not taken a PPI. Patients who took PPIs had a 20% to 50% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease than patients who did not. The study also found that twice-daily PPI dosing was associated with a higher risk than once-daily dosing.

The researchers based their conclusions on long-term analyses of two large populations of patients. The study controlled for demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical variables, none of which changed the association between PPI use and chronic kidney disease. The study also compared patients who took a PPI to patients who took a different kind of heartburn medication. The patients who took a PPI were significantly more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than the patients who took the other medication.

The authors concluded that the risk of developing chronic kidney disease is tied to PPI use itself and not to the underlying conditions for which the PPI was prescribed. Those conditions were not associated with chronic kidney disease in patients who did not take PPIs. An editorial accompanying the study expresses the expert opinion that PPIs are more likely than not a cause of chronic kidney disease.

The likelihood that PPIs cause chronic kidney disease is supported by the rate at which chronic kidney disease has been increasing in the United States. Other risk factors, including diabetes mellitus and hypertension, have not increased at the same rate. The increasing use of PPIs is the only known variable that accounts for the corresponding increase in chronic kidney disease.

What do I do if I am taking a PPI?

Only your doctor can give you medical advice. Some patients, particularly those who suffer from GERD and peptic ulcer disease, may decide that the benefit of taking PPIs outweighs the risk of developing a kidney disease. Patients with prescriptions for PPIs should not stop taking the drug without first discussing its risks and benefits with a physician.

You should be aware, however, that medical research has persuaded many experts that PPIs are overprescribed in the United States. Even when patients need a PPI, they may be taking a higher dose than is necessary. The editorial mentioned above points out that a “large number of patients are taking PPIs for no clear reason.”

The authors of the study linking PPIs to chronic kidney disease observed that as many as 70% of the patients who receive a prescription for a PPI may not need the drug, while 25% of patients who have been prescribed a PPI for long-term use could safely stop taking it. The evidence therefore suggests that the over-prescription of PPIs contributes to the prevalence of chronic kidney disease.

What should I do if I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease?

Chronic kidney disease limits the ability of kidneys to filter toxins from the body’s blood supply and to produce hormones that are essential to good health. Chronic kidney disease can lead to high blood pressure and an excess of toxic substances in the blood. Over time, chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure.

If you are being treated for, or have been diagnosed with, chronic kidney disease, you should review your memory and your medical records to determine whether you have ever taken Nexium, Prilosec, or Prevacid. Patients who took larger doses over long periods of time generally have the greatest reason to suspect that their chronic kidney disease was caused by a PPI.

If you used a PPI before you developed chronic kidney disease, you may be entitled to compensation. A personal injury attorney who handles injury claims against drug companies can evaluate your case. The attorneys at Advocate Law Group have decades of experience handling product liability and personal injury claims. We work with leading product liability firms nationwide to help our clients obtain results. Contact us for a free case evaluation.



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