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Proton Pump Inhibitors May Increase Risk For Kidney Failure

Proton Pump Inhibitor, or PPI, as it is more commonly known, is a drug used to treat chronic heartburn and other gastrointestinal disorders related to the production of acid. Brands of this drug include Prevacid, Prilosec OTC, and Nexium. A new study done by the American Society of Nephrology shows an alarming correlation between these types of medicines and a very serious condition: kidney damage. Kidney damage can leave a person with symptoms of kidney disease, and if the damage is severe enough, kidney failure. This can lead to mountains of medical bills for treatments, or possibly even kidney removal or replacements.

Proton Pump Inhibitor Study

PPIs are used by roughly 15 million Americans each year. They are typically prescribed but some are obtainable without a prescription. The medications were initially popular due to the speed at which they work to remove the symptoms, and they were believed to present a low level of toxicity. However, the study found some alarming side effects.

An analysis was performed using data obtained by patients treated by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Roughly 173,000 users of PPIs and 20,270 users of an alternative to PPIs known as a histamine H2 receptor blocker were examined over a five year period. The American Society of Nephrology research team found that a large percentage of patients who were taking PPIs were experiencing much higher rates of kidney failures when compared to patients who took the alternative medication, the histamine H2 receptor blockers.

PPI users were shown to have a 96% increased risk of kidney failure, coupled with an additional 28% increased risk of chronic kidney disease when compared to the patients who took the histamine H2 receptor blockers. This study, however, is not even the first of its kind to report the link between PPIs and kidney problems. A prior study linked the use of PPIs to a condition known as interstitial nephritis, which is another problem that can result in kidney failure. Another study linked PPIs to a higher risk of chronic kidney disease as well.

The study claims that there is not sufficient evidence to indicate causality, however, there is a strong link between kidney failure and the use of PPIs. Prior studies, outside of the one, took a look at other potential side effects of PPIs. These studies have indicated potential for increased risks of pneumonia, infection from C. difficile, and slight risk of osteoporosis. The American Society of Nephrology hinted in the study that perhaps PPIs are being overprescribed. The Society also concluded that PPIs should be used sparingly and for short periods of time. With these side effects coming to light through these studies, perhaps medical professionals will examine other methods and medicines for treating heartburn and other acid-related gastrointestinal disorders.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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