Evidence Links PPIs to Serious Kidney Problems
A recent study links heartburn drugs like Prilosec and Nexium to an increased risk of severe kidney disease.
People who take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Prilosec and Nexium for heartburn are 30% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease, and twice as likely to experience kidney failure, a recent study says. The study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, evaluated thousands of patients listed in the Department of Veterans Affairs databases over a five-year period.
What are PPIs and who takes them?
PPI is a drug group that treats the overproduction and secretion of gastric acid. To put it simply, they reduce the stomach acid that can cause acid reflux, heartburn, peptic ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While the side effects of the different PPIs vary, they all perform essentially the same function.
Because these drugs are generally viewed as safe, they may have been overprescribed, causing many patients to take them longer than necessary. Taking PPIs for extended periods could increase a person’s risk for developing serious kidney problems.
Comparison to H2 Blockers
The study looked at two groups of people – those who began taking PPIs to reduce stomach acid, and those who started taking H2 blockers for the same reason. H2 blockers also work to reduce stomach acid, but through a different means. Popular drugs in this class include Ranitidine, Cimetidine, and Famotidine. After following both groups of patients for five years, and accounting for additional factors, researchers found that the patients taking PPIs were much more likely to experience problems than their H2 blocker-taking counterparts:
- 32% higher risk of kidney problems
- 28% higher risk of chronic kidney disease
- 96% higher risk of kidney failure
Many people who suffer from heartburn, ulcers, and other acid-related conditions, when given the choice, will choose PPIs over H2 blockers because they are more effective. However, this new evidence might tip the scales in the H2 blockers’ favor, or at least reduce the amount of time people take PPIs.
Prescription vs. Over-the-Counter PPIs
Many PPIs are available without a prescription, meaning people have access to this potentially harmful drug without first having to consult a doctor. The warning to those taking over-the-counter PPIs was this – if you are consistently purchasing a PPI without a prescription, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the best course of action. Prolonged PPI use can be harmful to your kidneys.
All drugs carry risk, but this new information should serve as a caution to those suffering from heartburn and the like. If you are taking a PPI, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, it is best you consult with your doctor.
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