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Side Effects of Popular Heartburn Medications Include Kidney Disease and Dementia

Sep 21, 2016

The American Heart Association, in a study published in the May 2016 issue of Circulation Research, warns of possibly life-threatening side effects of some widely used heartburn medications.

Nexium, Prilosec, and other proton pump inhibitors (PPI) medications have been prescribed for stomach acid reduction for nearly 35 years. But studies have shown that these medications can prematurely age vascular cells, Top Class Actions reports. This cell aging could be the reason PPIs have been linked to increased risks for kidney disease and dementia.

Proton pump inhibitors including Nexium (esomeprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole) and Prevacid (lansoprazole) reduce the production of acid in the stomach, so that if stomach juice backs up into the esophagus, there is less acid to irritate the esophagus. The reduction in acid allows the esophagus to heal.

In the new study, a group of researchers from the Houston Methodist Research Institute’s Cardiovascular Sciences department looked at heartburn medication side effects. Several recent studies have indicated a link between Nexium (esomeprazole) and kidney side effects. This is an important concern because many patients take PPIs for years, believing the drugs would cause few complications. Often, people take such medications so that they can eat less healthy food that would otherwise cause gastrointestinal issues.

Doctors estimate that nearly 70 percent of the people currently taking Nexium, Prilosec and other PPIs could actually control heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes.

Many people believe that over-the-counter drugs are safe medications because they are available directly to consumers without a doctor’s prescription. But doctors warn that any medication can pose serious risks to the user, and studies suggest that this is the case with Nexium.

The German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, Germany, published a study earlier this year showing a link between PPI use and the onset of dementia. The German researchers believe that PPIs might cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing the medication to interact with brain enzymes.

In addition to risks for kidney disease and dementia, PPI side effects include decreased calcium absorption and increased fracture risk, decreased iron absorption, and poor magnesium absorption. Some experts have speculated that poor magnesium absorption and hypomagnesemia predispose patients to kidney injury, Medscape reports.

The Department of Veterans Affairs conducted a study that determined that patients who take PPIs could be up to 96 percent more likely to develop kidney failure and 28 percent more likely to experience chronic kidney disease after using a PPI for five years. A 2016 study in JAMA internal Medicine said PPI users were at a possibly 50 percent higher risk of chronic disease than those who did not take the drugs.

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