Since the late 1980s, a group of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI) have been the first-line treatment for conditions like acid reflux and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. In fact, doctors have turned to these drugs, like Nexium and Prilosec, for just about any condition that involves gastric acid production. From routine heartburn to common indigestion, proton pump inhibitors have rapidly gone from commonly prescribed to over-prescribed – and researchers are beginning to worry.
Side Effects Of Proton Pump Inhibitors
To date, long-term proton pump inhibitor use has been associated with an increased risk for numerous severe health events, including bone fractures and community-acquired pneumonia. But two new studies have highlighted an even more distressing link.
Proton pump inhibitors have now been implicated as the potential cause of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
Kidney Disorders Linked To Nexium, Prilosec & Prevacid
Surprisingly, researchers have suspected a link between proton pump inhibitors and kidney damage for more than two decades. During the early 1990s, doctors began to notice that patients who took drugs like Prilosec could suffer a rare, but potentially-devastating, condition called acute interstitial nephritis.
Acute interstitial nephritis (AIN) is similar to an allergic reaction, and the condition usually begins as an adverse reaction to a drug. While patients often fail to present any symptoms, the disorder’s characteristic inflammation of the kidneys can in some cases cause:
- joint pain
- enlargement of the kidneys
- lower back pain
- painful urination
Unfortunately, researchers have found that cases of acute interstitial nephritis caused by proton pump inhibitors rarely present the classic “triad” of symptoms: rash, fever and joint pain. Instead, patients taking proton pump inhibitors are more likely to present with symptoms of nausea, fatigue and unexplained weight loss – adverse effects that can be caused by numerous different conditions.
Thus, diagnosing the condition is difficult, and often, doctors will only notice a problem once the inflammation has begun to cause irreversible kidney damage.
Inflammation May Lead To Long-Term Kidney Impairment
Today, no one would deny that acute interstitial nephritis is a confirmed side effect of drugs like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid. But it seems that AIN is only the beginning of the harm proton pump inhibitors may present for kidney health.
Left untreated, acute interstitial nephritis can rapidly progress, impairing the kidneys’ ability to filter waste materials from body fluid. Patients can suffer a sudden loss of kidney function, in an event known as acute kidney failure, or fall into a long-term decline. Chronic kidney disease is often the unfortunate result – a progressive decay of renal health over a course of months or years.
In early 2016, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that patients taking proton pump inhibitors are between 45% and 50% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than their peers. In a deeply troubling result, the scientists concluded that for every 30 to 59 patients who were exposed to proton pump inhibitors, one patient would suffer a damaging kidney condition.
Two months later, another group confirmed these results, finding that PPI drugs almost doubled a patient’s risk for suffering end-stage renal disease, the category of kidney failure cases in which patients require either dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Long-Term PPI Use Raises Concerns
Proton pump inhibitors like Nexium are among the most widely-prescribed drugs in the world. Recent estimates suggest that more than 1 out of every 20 people in the developed world currently take a PPI drug. Of course, doctors can’t just ignore the amazing efficacy of proton pump inhibitors. The drugs are extremely reliable in shutting off the production of gastric acid, far more effective than the previous industry-standard, H2 blockers like Zantac.
In the short-term, the efficacy of proton pump inhibitors is matched by their relative safety. PPI drugs seem to pose few short-term side effects, which is ideal, since proton pump inhibitors are only intended to be a short-term treatment option. While this fact may come as a surprise, proton pump inhibitor drugs were never meant to be a long-term treatment option. Until recently, the medical community had very little information on how longer courses of treatment could affect patients. But with rampant prescription, patients are being left on these drugs for longer and longer periods of time – with predictably devastating results.
Are New Proton Pump Inhibitor Lawsuits Coming?
After the FDA warned patients that Nexium and Prilosec could increase the risk for broken bones, dozens of people filed lawsuits against the companies behind these drugs. Now, many attorneys believe the manufacturers are bracing for a new wave of PPI lawsuits, sparked by patients who suffered kidney failure after taking proton pump inhibitors for long periods of time.
Several patients have already filed lawsuits against AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of Nexium, claiming the company’s “Purple Pill” caused irreversible kidney damage. These patients say they were never warned of their favored heartburn drugs’ risks, noting that while proton pump inhibitors have borne a warning for acute interstitial nephritis since 2014, the drugs make no mention of chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal disease.
Nexium lawyers believe that it’s only a matter of time before other PPI patients follow suit, filing additional claims against the manufacturers of Prilosec, Prevacid and other proton pump inhibitors. Experts also suspect that many widows, widowers and loved ones may be eligible to pursue legal action after the loss of a loved one to kidney failure.
Nexium Lawyers Offer Support
TheProductLawyers.com is sponsored by Banville Law, a personal injury firm based in New York City. Our experienced product liability attorneys are now offering free consultations to any patient or family member who believes that a proton pump inhibitor drug caused them or their loved one to suffer harm.