If you suffer from heartburn, you know firsthand how it can severely affect your quality of life. For most sufferers, getting relief is a top priority.
Many people turn to over-the-counter and prescription medications designed to treat heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Known as proton pump inhibitors, these drugs are also used to treat numerous other conditions, such as ulcers and acid reflux.
Now, several studies have linked proton pump inhibitors to serious kidney problems, including kidney failure.
If you have taken a proton pump inhibitor, such as Nexium, Prevacid, or Prilosec, and you have experienced kidney problems, it’s important to speak to a Washington, D.C. product liability lawyer. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Study Links PPIs to Kidney Failure
As reported by the New York Times, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine says people who use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have a 20 to 50 percent higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Participants in the study also developed diminished kidney function and kidney damage.
The study followed more than 10,000 patients for an average of 14 years. Several of the study’s participants even experienced end-stage kidney failure.
Researchers say that over 15 million Americans took PPIs in 2013 alone, generating $10 billion in revenue for drug manufacturers. The study also said there is evidence that 25 percent of long-term PPI users could stop taking the drugs and remain symptom-free.
Because PPIs like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid are available over-the-counter, many people don’t realize how potentially harmful they are. Medical experts say patients often take the drugs far longer than they should, which heightens the risk of permanent kidney damage.
PPIs and Increased Risk of Heart Attack
This is not the first time PPIs have been linked to serious health problems. An analysis of 300,000 long-term users of PPIs revealed they have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack.
Researchers also examined H2-blockers, another class of drug used to treat heartburn and acid reflux, and did not find a heightened risk of heart attack. Popular H2 blockers include Zantac, Pepcid, and Tagamet, all of which are sold over-the-counter.
Because PPIs suppress stomach acid, they render the body unable to absorb certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, calcium, and magnesium.
These nutrients are critical to good bone health, as well as regular heart function. When people take PPIs without a doctor’s supervision, they don’t always realize they are vitamin-deficient.
Signs of B12 and magnesium deficiency include heart palpitations and fatigue. Patients on a long-term PPI regimen have also experienced bone loss, osteoporosis, and even fractures caused by calcium deficiency.
Patients who take PPIs long-term are also at an increased risk of developing dangerous infections, such as C. difficile, a gastrointestinal infection that is resistant to many antibiotics and can be fatal, especially in the elderly.
According to physicians, most people should not use PPIs for longer than two weeks. In some cases, it’s appropriate for a patient to take a PPI for up to eight weeks, however, all patients should be monitored by a doctor while taking a proton pump inhibitor.
Doctors also say many people who rely on PPIs to stop heartburn and the symptoms of GERD could manage their conditions with safer alternatives, such as antacids.
Also, simple diet changes and more exercise are often effective when it comes to minimizing GERD and acid reflux symptoms.
Because H2 blockers have not been linked to the kidney and heart problems caused by PPIs, doctors also say that moving a patient from a PPI to an H2 blocker is often an acceptable alternative to long-term PPI use. Doctors say sleeping in an elevated position is also sometimes helpful for reducing the side effects of stomach acid.
Call a Washington, D.C. Product Liability Lawyer about Your Case
If you or a loved one has experienced an adverse health condition after taking a proton pump inhibitor or another prescription drug or over-the-counter medication, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and other damages.
Protect your rights by speaking to an experienced Washington, D.C. product liability lawyer today. Schedule a free consultation to explore your options.