Acid Reflux Meds/Kidney Damage Link Unclear
Is there a definitive link between proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)—commonly used to treat chronic heartburn or acid reflux—and kidney disease? Commercials for class-action lawsuits and an increasing amount of scientific evidence suggest there is. Although no direct association has been proven, and drug manufacturers insist the medications are safe, research shows the risk for chronic kidney disease is up to 50 percent higher in people who’ve taken proton pump inhibitors like Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and others.
PPIs, which were first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1990, are highly effective at reducing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and preventing and treating ulcers. In 2013, more than 15.3 million prescriptions were written for the medications and they are also available in over-the-counter forms. However, PPIs are approved by the FDA only for short-term use—weeks to months—and recent studies suggest they are often used for years—even decades—and may be prescribed unnecessarily in up to 66 percent of cases.
In 2016, two large studies raised concerns about a possible link between prescription heartburn medications and kidney disease. PPIs have also been associated with other adverse effects such as rare type of infectious diarrhea, pneumonia, and bone fracture. Patients using these medicines should talk to their health care provider about the risks and benefits.
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