March 30, 2016 — A growing number of studies have found that people who take heartburn medications like Prilosec and Nexium are more likely to develop nephritis (kidney inflammation) and kidney damage.
In April 2015, the medical journal CMAJ Open published a study linking the use of heartburn drugs in the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) class with a 2.5-fold increased risk of acute kidney injury and a 3-fold increased risk of acute interstitial nephritis.
The conclusions of the study were based on data from nearly 300,000 adults in Ontario age 66 or older who started taking a PPI between April 2002 and November 2011. According to the study:
“PPIs cause interstitial nephritis and are an under-appreciated cause of acute kidney injury. … These are potentially reversible conditions that may not be readily attributed to drug treatment.”
In November 2014, the FDA updated the labels on all PPIs to include stronger warnings about nephritis. However, evidence linking PPIs and kidney damage has been growing since the first case reports were published in the early 1990s. Since then, dozens of cases have been reported.
In February 2016, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study linking the regular use of PPIs with a 20-50% increased risk of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). Delayed diagnosis and continued use of the culprit drug could lead to kidney failure and more serious consequences.
An estimated 15 million Americans use PPIs regularly to prevent acid reflux. They are sold by prescription and over-the-counter under a variety of brand-names, including Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Dexilant, Zegerid, and more. Their effectiveness has led to overuse, exposing patients to serious risks like pneumonia, nutritional deficiencies, bone fractures, Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, drug interactions, and other severe side effects.
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