Heartburn Medications May Increase Risk of Kidney Disease

According to new research out this month, a popular group of medications used to treat heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers and irritation of the esophagus caused by acid reflux could increase the user’s risk of developing kidney disease and kidney failure.  The drugs are known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI), and are marketed and sold under well-known names such as Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid.  Proton pump inhibitors work by blocking the production of stomach acid.

The new study published by the American Society of Nephrology linked these popular stomach acid medications to an increased risk developing chronic kidney disease.  The study utilized data from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.  Researchers discovered that individuals who took PPIs had a 96% increased risk of developing kidney failure.  The study also concluded that such individuals had a 28% increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease compared to patients who took other medications, such as histamine H2 receptor blockers, instead to treat problems associated with stomach acid.  The study also concluded that individuals who took PPIs for a longer time period were more likely to develop kidney problems.

It is estimated that in America alone, 15 million people take prescription proton pump inhibitors.  However, that number is likely underestimated since a number of these medications are now available over-the-counter.

Chronic kidney disease can eventually result in the loss of kidney function.  If this condition progresses to what is commonly referred to as end-stage kidney disease, that can be fatal unless the patient undergoes dialysis treatment or in extreme cases, undergoes a kidney transplant.  These conditions can have a debilitating effect on the patient’s quality of life.  While researchers are still uncertain about the cause and effect of taking PPIs and developing kidney disease, these findings emphasize that PPIs should only be used when needed and should not be taken over lengthy time periods.

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