Is Your Heartburn Med Linked to Kidney Disease?

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About 10 percent of adults in the United States take a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) like Prilosec (omeprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), or Prevacid (lansoprazole) to combat acid reflux, frequent heartburn, or GERD. If you’re one of them, you might want to talk to your doctor about alternatives, especially if you’re at higher-than-normal risk for kidney problems. A study published in Scientific Reports suggests these medications may increase kidney disease risk.

Researchers from the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California San Diego combed more than 10 million patient records from an FDA database for unexpected side effects associated with PPIs. They identified about 43,000 people who took a proton pump inhibitor but no other prescription medication, and a control group of about 8,000 people who used only a histamine-2 receptor blocker like Zantac (ranitidine) or Pepcid (famotidine) to reduce heartburn symptoms.

Their findings: Adverse kidney events – such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, end-stage renal disease, and unspecified kidney impairment – were reported in 5.6 percent of people who took a PPI and just 0.7 percent of those who took a histamine-2 receptor blocker.

Symptoms of acid reflux, including heartburn, can be painful and disruptive, and for many people, PPIs are an effective and relatively inexpensive treatment option. While this analysis of existing data is helpful, a new clinical trial is needed to solidify the possible cause-and-effect relationship between these medications and kidney disease. Until that happens, the California researchers suggest people taking a PPI talk to their health care providers about the concerns raised by this study, especially if they’re at increased risk for kidney problems.