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Studies Link Prilosec Other Heartburn Drugs to Kidney Damage

Aug 12, 2016

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a common class of medications that include Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid. Recent studies suggest that these medications, which are used to treat heartburn and acid reflux, may be associated with an increased risk of kidney damage. Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid work by reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach. The risk of kidney damage with PPIs appears be greater when used long-term, research suggests.

In January, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study linking PPIs to chronic kidney disease. Researchers found that the risk of chronic kidney disease was 20 to 50 percent higher in patients who used PPIs compared to those who do not. The study was led by Dr. Morgan Grams, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Grams and her colleagues gathered data from a survey of 10,000 people participating in a national study on hardening of the arteries. They also used a health care system in Pennsylvania to analyze outpatient PPI prescriptions among nearly 250,000 patients.

Researchers found an increased risk of chronic kidney disease over 10 years among both groups. Additionally, the risk appeared to vary with dose. Patients who took PPIs twice a day had an increased risk of 46 percent while those with a once-daily dose had an increased risk of 15 percent.

In April, another study was published linked PPIs to kidney damage. The findings, which were published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, compared 170,000 new PPI users to 20,000 new users of H2 receptors blockers, another class of medications used to reduce stomach acid. Researchers found that 15 percent of PPIs users were diagnosed with chronic kidney disease compared to 11 percent of those taking H2 blockers. This equated to a 28 percent increased risk of chronic kidney disease among PPI users, after controlling for other factors. Although the actual number of people who developed end-stage renal failure in the study was small, the risk was 96 percent higher among those taking PPIs.

Neither of the studies proves a cause and effect relationship, but researchers agree that the findings highlight the need to use PPIs only when necessary. Study author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System, told CBS News "[patients should] use PPIs only when it is medically necessary, and should limit duration of exposure to the minimum necessary to treat the underlying medical condition,"

Dr. Kenneth R. DeVault, president of the American College of Gastroenterology and chair of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, told CBS News that patients can make certain lifestyle changes to mitigate heartburn symptoms. These steps include: losing weight, avoiding high fat foods, avoid eating late at night and elevating the head of the bed on six to eight inch blocks.

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