Popular Heartburn Drugs May Cause Serious Kidney Damage

Kristina Sauerwein | the Source | May 5, 2016

Extended use of drugs to treat heartburn, ulcers and acid reflux may lead to serious kidney damage, including kidney failure, according to a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System. More than 15 million Americans have prescriptions for so-called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which decrease gastric acid production and generally have been considered safe.

Furthermore, researchers found the risk of kidney problems rises the longer patients take the medications, sold under the brand names Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium and Protonix, among others. The epidemiological study is available online in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. “We advise patients to limit the use of PPIs only to when they are medically necessary and for the shortest duration possible,” said Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University and the study’s senior author.

In collaboration with scientists at the Veterans Affairs’ Clinical Epidemiology Center, Washington University researchers examined national VA databases to identify 173,321 new users of PPIs and 20,270 new users of an alternative class of stomach-acid suppressing drugs called histamine H2 receptor blockers. Following the patients for five years, the researchers found that chronic kidney disease affected 15 percent of PPI users who took the drugs over the course of the study compared with 11 percent of H2 blockers. After controlling for factors such as age and other health conditions that PPIs were associated with, researchers found a 28 percent increased risk of kidney damage among PPI users...