Study warns of increased cardiovascular, kidney disease risk with heartburn medications

A young woman with an illustration of her esophagus to show the inflammation caused by acid reflux disease.

A new study has found that patients taking a type of heartburn drugs known as proton pump inhibitors are more likely to develop fatal cardiovascular disease or chronic kidney disease. The report, published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), is the latest study to highlight the health risks associated with the long-term use of these heartburn medications.

Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs – which are used to treat heartburn, ulcers, or acid reflux – are one of the most widely prescribed types of medication in the United States. About 15 million Americans take PPIs such as Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, and Protonix each year. Although PPIs are only supposed to be taken for a few weeks at a time, many patients who use these drugs take them for months or even years.

The BMJ study analyzed the health records of more than 157,000 patients from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who were treated with Prevacid or Prilosec, and an additional 56,000 patients who were treated with H2 blockers. H2s are an alternative class of reflux medication that include drugs such as Pepcid and Zantac.

Researchers found that in a 10 year follow up, there were 45 additional deaths per 1,000 patients who were treated with PPIs compared to the patients who used H2 blockers. Most of these additional deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease or chronic kidney disease, researchers wrote.

The study also found that half of the patients who were taking PPIs had none of the conditions that the drugs are intended to treat. Conditions that are commonly treated with PPIs include. peptic ulcers, reflux, and Barrett’s esophagus. 

Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, the lead author of the BMJ study, said that these findings should encourage doctors only to prescribe PPIs to patients with conditions that the drug is intended to treat. “In people taking them for the right reasons, the benefits outweigh the risks. But even then, they should be taken at the lowest doses and for the shortest period of time possible,” Dr. Al-Aly says.

The BMJ study is the latest in a series of studies that have linked PPIs to an increased risk of kidney problems, cardiovascular disease, or other side effects. A 2017 study published by JAMA Internal Medicine found that PPI users are 20-50% more likely to develop kidney disease than those who had never used the drugs. Other studies have also linked the popular heartburn medications to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. 

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If you or a loved one were prescribed PPIs such as Nexium (esomeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), or Prilosec (omeprazole) and were diagnosed with kidney disease or other side effects caused by these drugs, you may qualify to file a claim. The first step in taking legal action is to speak with an experienced pharmaceutical litigation attorney to find out more about your legal rights.

The lawyers at Hissey, Mulderig & Friend have represented thousands of clients across the U.S. in cases involving dangerous drugs, defective medical devices, or other hazardous consumer products. Our attorneys believe that all patients and consumers should have the right to professional, experienced legal counsel to ensure that their legal rights are protected.

For more information about whether you may qualify to file a PPI lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Hissey, Mulderig & Friend for a free legal consultation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-866-806-8117, or by following this link to our free online case evaluation form located on the right side of this page.

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