Prilosec®, Nexium®, And Other Heartburn Drugs Cause Kidney And Heart Problems
Many patients have sung the praises of prescription heartburn medications, especially those who are unable to eat or sleep without suffering painful acid reflux. In recent years, these drugs have grown to become among the most widely-prescribed medications in the world, netting the drug makers billions of dollars annually. But while these medications may be effective at lowering stomach acid levels, they may also cause kidney damage and heart failure, doing more harm than good for long-term users.
Heartburn Medications Prilosec® and Nexium® Linked to Heart and Kidney Damage
Over 15 million patients have been prescribed a class of heartburn medications known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPI), and it is estimated that many more take PPIs that are available over the counter. These medications are prescribed to treat a number of gastro-intestinal conditions, such as prevent ulcers from bleeding, heal acid-related damage to the esophagus, treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and clear up stomach infections.
Popular PPI heartburn medications include:
- Omeprazole (Prilosec)
- Esomeprazole (Nexium)
- Lansoprazole (Prevacid®)
- Pantoprazole (Protonix®)
- Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant)
- Rabeprazole (AcipHex®)
In recent years, researchers have become concerned over the growing number of PPI users who have suffered from debilitating side effects, including:
- Heart attacks. One study discovered that taking PPIs greatly increased the risk of heart-related conditions, including heart attacks, cardiac arrest, and strokes. Depending on the size of the patient group studied, PPI use caused a nearly 20 percent increase in subsequent heart attack risk, and in some cases doubled the risk of a patient suffering a major cardiovascular event after taking PPIs. In both cases, researchers found that heart risks were much higher for patients taking PPIs than for those taking an older class of heartburn medications called H2 blockers.
- Kidney problems. Researchers began to identify the risks of kidney damage in patients taking PPIs almost immediately after the drug was released onto the market. Multiple studies have linked PPIs to acute interstitial nephritis and a higher risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD), conditions that can progress into kidney failure. Patients who suffer kidney failure often require dialysis or kidney transplants to stay alive.
- Bone fractures. Older patients who take daily doses of PPIs for an extended period of time are at an elevated risk of bone fractures, particularly in the hip, wrist, and spine. These medications may also cause low bone mineral density (osteopenia), increasing the chances of osteoporosis.
- Infections. Some patients who have taken PPIs for a year or longer had difficulty fighting infections and were likelier to contract serious infections such as pneumonia and C. difficile.
Lawsuits Filed Against AstraZeneca for Life-Threatening Side Effects
In 2005, patients filed a class-action lawsuit against drug maker AstraZeneca for using questionable marketing practices to promote Nexium. According to court documents, the company allegedly used deception to push patients taking Prilosec toward the newly-released Nexium. When the patent for AstraZeneca’s Prilosec expired, the company marketed Nexium to ulcer patients, persuading them that the drug was safe and beneficial despite containing nearly the same ingredients as Prilosec.
In the years following this claim, several more lawsuits have been filed against the makers of Prilosec and Nexium. Some of the claims made against the drug maker include a failure to warn doctors and patients of the known risks of kidney damage and kidney failure, as well as failure to provide clinical evidence and unethical marketing practices. These lawsuits claim that proper warning of the drug’s dangers would have allowed patients to seek alternate treatments for their heartburn or to monitor their health more closely for signs of adverse health effects while taking the drug.