Heartburn Drugs Linked to Kidney Disease – Prevacid and Nexium on the List

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are often prescribed as treatment for acid-related conditions because of their ability to block the enzyme in the wall of the stomach that makes acid, thereby decreasing the production of acid in the body.  Examples of some protein pump inhibitors that are often prescribed are omeprazole (Prilosec and Losec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), pantoprazole (Protonix), esomeprazole (Nexium), and a rapid release form of omeprazole (Zegarid).  These medications are used for the prevention and treatment of conditions such as duodenal stomach ulcers, NSAID-associated ulcer, ulcers, heartburn, acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.  In 2013, over 15 million Americans were using these proton pump inhibitors.

There are some common side effects associated with various types of protein pump inhibitors.  Most often, these include headache, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, flatulence, nausea, and rash.  Still, these medications are typically considered to be well tolerated by patients.  Additionally, the risk of Clostridium difficile infection may increase while taking PPIs, and long-term use may increase the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine.  More serious adverse side effects have recently been discovered.  There may be a connection between proton pump inhibitors and long-term kidney damage, a new study published in January shows.  JAMA Internal Medicine published findings that individuals who take proton pump inhibitors have a 20 percent to 50 percent increased risk of chronic kidney disease when compared with individuals who don’t take the drugs.  Although the study does not solidify a causal relationship between PPIs and kidney disease, Dr. Morgan Grams, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and lead author of the study, said, “We found there was an increasing risk associated with an increasing dose. That suggests that perhaps this observed effect is real.” 

Of the 15 million prescribed the drugs in 2013, the study claims that up to 70 percent of these prescriptions were unneeded and 25 percent of those who used the PPIs for an extended time could not stop taking the medication without more severe heartburn or acid reflux.  Grams said that the heartburn drugs have already been associated with short-term kidney problems, but this new study proves a link between PPIs and chronic kidney disease.  The U.S. National Institutes of Health says that chronic kidney disease can eventually cause kidney failure, forcing the sufferer to regularly go on dialysis and possibly require a kidney transplant.  The data from this study was taken from self-reports made by more than 10,000 PPI originally being used for a national study on atheroschlerosis (the hardening of arteries).  Because of this potential link between PPIs and kidney disease as well as other severe side effects, many lawsuits have been filed against the makers of various drugs.  Some of the most recent settlements include a $20 million Prilosec settlement in 2015.  In this suit, the victims claimed the company’s marketing campaign duped the consumers into opting for the pricier Nexium over Prilosec, though they have the same effect.  To date, there have been millions of dollars spent on settlements for proton pump inhibitors related to severe side effects.

If you believe you have suffered kidney damage as a result of taking one of the above mentioned heartburn drugs, give one of our experienced drug injury lawyers a call for a free confidential consultation. 617-492-3000. 


HealthDay, WebMD News from. “Heartburn Meds Linked to Chronic Kidney Disease.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 21 July 2016.

Ogbru, Omudhome. “PPIs, Proton Pump Inhibitors: Drug List & Side Effects.” MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2016.

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