Many people who have taken acid reflux medicine have begun to worry about the connection between kidney disease and Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid. This is because a recent study has linked these medicines to an increased risk of kidney failure. The drugs are taken to reduce acid reflux, also known as GERD. The medications work by lowering the amount of acid produced in the stomach.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN) suggests that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium can lead to kidney damage and even early death.
Fifteen million Americans were prescribed PPIs last year alone. But this figure does not tell the whole story. Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid and their generic counterpoints are also available over the counter.
PPI Patients 96% More Likely to Suffer Kidney Failure
The JASN study builds on previous research which also shows a pattern of PPIs leading to kidney disease. The 5-year study tracked 170,000 people in Veteran’s Administration hospitals who were prescribed PPIs to reduce stomach acid. It compared them to 20,000 people who had stomach acid problems who were instead prescribed histamine H2 receptor blockers, a different class of drugs that includes Tagament and Zantax. The study showed that users of PPIs were 28 percent more likely to come down with chronic kidney disease. Fifteen percent of the people who received PPIs like Nexium and Prilosec were diagnosed with chronic kidney disease versus 11 percent of those on histamine H2 receptor blockers.
While less than two percent of the patients experienced kidney failure, the patients on PPIs were 96 percent more likely to suffer from complete kidney failure.
Previous studies, including one conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center and published in the JAMA Internal Medicine have shown similar results.
The researchers theorize that the PPIs cause tissue inflammation in the kidneys. When this happens repeatedly, the organs no longer function the way they were designed and may begin to fail. Another theory is that PPIs cause magnesium levels in the blood to fall. This mineral is considered vital for the kidneys to function properly.
20 Million Americans Suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease
According to the American Society of Nephrology, 20 million Americans now suffer from chronic kidney disease which is characterized by the kidney’s inability to filter blood as it should. The leading causes of the disorder are diabetes and high blood pressure.
Other studies have shown that:
- PPIs are linked to inflammatory kidney disease and acute kidney injury, both short-term and reversible problems.
- 25 percent of kidney patients had previously used a PPI.
- People who had taken a PPI sometime in their life had twice the risk of dying prematurely.
- People who had taken a PPI were 50 percent more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than people who had never taken a drug like Nexium.
Many medical experts are now recommending that people only take PPIs such as Nexium when “medically necessary,” and that they limit the amount of time they are on the medications. For some patients, heartburn symptoms can be alleviated through diet and lifestyle changes and do not need the intervention of potentially lethal medications.
Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid have specific FDA-approved uses. However up to 90 percent of the prescriptions for PPIs are for non-approved uses such as GERD, and many people use the over the counter drugs to treat simple heartburn. Some medical authorities are concerned, noting that this new research shows dangers linked to both use and misuse of the medications. If not a causal link, there is a connection between kidney disease and Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid and other PPIs.
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