Can common heartburn and acid reflux medications cause chronic kidney disease?

Proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPIs) have become overwhelmingly popular in recent years. As many as 15 million Americans are taking these drugs, either by prescription or over the counter, for conditions such as heartburn, ulcers, and gastroesophageal acid reflux disease (GERD). But lately there has been growing evidence that these drugs come with severe and life-altering side effects, including chronic kidney disease, which can be fatal.

What Drugs Should I Be Concerned About?

There are many PPI drugs on the market right now, and not all of them require a doctor’s prescription. Some of the most popular PPI drugs that can now be bought over the counter (OTC) include:

  • Omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • Omeprazole with Sodium Bicarbonate (Zegerid)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • Lansoprazole (Prevacid)

There are multiple prescription-only PPI drugs, as well. PPI medications that require a prescription include the following:

  • Rabeprazole (Aciphex)
  • Pantoprazole (Protonix)
  • Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant)

Though these drugs are made by different manufacturers, they all work in the same way. PPI drugs stop an enzyme in the stomach lining that’s responsible for the production of stomach acid. All PPIs, both prescription and OTC, are currently under investigation for causing chronic kidney disease.

What Is Chronic Kidney Disease?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) happens when a disease process or other health condition causes the kidneys to gradually lose their ability to filter waste from the blood, making the sufferer grow sicker and sicker with time. The symptoms are typically invisible at first, so the damage isn’t noticed until advanced CKD has already set in. Some of the symptoms of CKD as it progresses can include the following:

  • Exhaustion and lack of energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles
  • Puffiness of the face, especially around the eyes first thing in the morning
  • Increased urge to urinate, particularly at night

These and other symptoms will develop and worsen over time as the kidneys lose function. If left untreated, CKD can progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD), when the kidneys are completely unable to remove waste products from the body. ESRD is always fatal without dialysis or kidney transplant.

Since many of the symptoms can mimic other conditions, a doctor’s diagnosis is critical. Your doctor can order blood and urine tests to determine your kidney function. Early detection is extremely important to have the best chance of slowing down the progression of CKD.

Studies Linking PPIs to CKD and Kidney Failure

Although PPIs do work to reduce acid in the stomach, multiple sources indicate that they greatly increase the risk of CKD, especially when taken for longer periods of time. A study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in April 2016 comparing the use of PPIs to a similar non-PPI medication, and found that after five years, PPI users were at a 28% greater risk of CKD, and risk increased with long-term use. Even more shocking, the study also found that PPI users were 96% more likely to progress to ESRD. A prior observational study published in JAMA Internal Medicine also found a 35% increase in CKD risk with PPI use.

Other Conditions Linked to PPI Use

Unfortunately, CKD isn’t the only side effect associated with PPI use. Evidence is piling up for other conditions, as well, including…

  • Acute interstitial nephritis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the kidneys.
  • C. difficile infection, a life-threatening bacterial disease.
  • Dementia, especially among elderly PPI users.
  • Heart palpitations and heart attacks.
  • Osteoporosis, leading to increased risk of broken bones.
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis, a dangerous and painful blistering over large areas of the skin.

Lawsuits are currently being filed against the manufacturers of PPI drugs, alleging that they knew the risks to the public, yet ignored them and sold the drugs anyways, leaving patients to suffer.

What You Can Do

If you’ve been taking one of the PPI drugs listed above and have concerns, you should speak to your physician about the risks, and ask if there are alternative treatments for your condition. It’s important to listen to your doctor’s advice about your specific health condition, but you can also always seek a second medical opinion, too. You should not start or stop a prescription without discussing it with a doctor first.

If you or a loved one are suffering from CKD or any other condition caused by PPI drugs, you may have legal options. Protect yourself by contacting an attorney who is experienced with dangerous-drug litigation. The attorneys at Wayne Wright LLP will fight the drug companies, insurers, and hospitals to help you get the compensation that you’re owed. Call us to discuss the details of your case with a free consultation at 210-888-8888.

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