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Studies Suggest Heartburn Medications Increase Risk of Kidney Failure

Apr 20, 2016

Recent research suggests that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a popular class of medications that include Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium, Protonix and Aciphex, may increase the risk of kidney disease and kidney failure. PPIs are used to treat conditions including heartburn, ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease and acid reflux. According to a study published by the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, patients taking PPIs have a higher risk of kidney failure and kidney disease compared to those taking histamine H2 receptor blockers, an alternative treatment.

Compared to those taking histamine H2 receptor blockers, patients taking PPIs were 96 percent more likely to develop kidney failure and 28 percent more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. The study was conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and at the Clinical Epidemiology Center at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, who looked at 5 year follow-up data from 173,321 people taking PPIs and 20,270 taking histamine H2 receptor blockers.

The authors suggest that PPIs are overprescribed and recommend that they be used sparingly if needed. New studies about potential side effects add to a body of research that physicians can reference when deciding what treatment is best for a particular patient. For instance, doctors may now be less inclined to prescribe PPIs to a patient with a history of renal problems.

The new study is not the only one linking PPIs to kidney problems. According to CNN, earlier studies have shown that PPIs may increase the risk of acute interstitial nephritis, which can eventually lead to kidney failure. In January, JAMA published a study online showing that PPIs may be linked to chronic kidney disease.

All of these studies show correlation, not causation. Although the findings do not prove that PPIs cause kidney problems, one of the earlier studies notes that "even a casual relationship between PPI use and CKD could have a considerable public health effect given the widespread extent of use."

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