Millions of Americans take medications to treat heartburn. Heartburn medications are easily available over the counter or in prescription strength formulas. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown a certain type of heartburn medication, called Proton Pump Inhibitors or PPIs, can cause severe and potentially life threatening side effects.
What Are Proton Pump Inhibitors?
PPIs are a type of medication that works to relieve heartburn by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach. PPIs target enzymes in the stomach lining that create stomach acid and prevent these enzymes from producing acid. PPIs allow for ulcers in the esophagus to heal and prevent more ulcers from forming in the future.
Common Proton Pump Inhibitor Medications Include:
What Are PPIs Prescribed To Treat?
There are a variety of conditions that PPIs are prescribed to treat. These can include:
- Heartburn – Heartburn is a mild to severe pain in the chest caused by acid in the esophagus burning the lining of the esophagus. Heartburn can produce sharp pains, burning sensations, or a tightening sensation and often occurs after eating a meal.
- Acid reflux – When the muscles in the esophagus weaken, acid from the stomach can move backward into the esophagus causing acid reflux. Acid reflux causes a burning sensation and/or pressure in the esophagus.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease – More commonly referred to as GERD, this is the chronic form of acid reflux. GERD can cause an inflammation in the esophagus and create painful ulcers. If left untreated, GERD can also increase a patient’s risk of cancer. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, nearly 20% of all Americans suffer from GERD.
- Barrett’s Esophagus – Most commonly diagnosed in patients who have suffered from GERD, Barrett’s Esophagus occurs when the tissues in the esophagus change to resemble the lining of the intestine. Barrett’s Esophagus greatly increases a patient’s risk of developing cancer.
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome – While a relatively rare condition, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome occurs when tumors form in the pancreas or small intestines. These tumors release a hormone that causes the body to produce additional amounts of stomach acid, which can cause other complications.
- Erosive esophagitis – Erosive esophagitis occurs when an infection or irritation causes inflammation in the esophagus. This inflammation can cause difficulty swallowing, the development of ulcers, and scarring.
- Preventing or healing ulcers – Stomach acid in the esophagus can cause ulcers and other damage to the lining of the esophagus. These ulcers cannot heal until the acid in the stomach is reduced.
The Dangers Associated With PPIs
Although some PPIs have been available for over ten years, recent studies suggest the drugs cause serious damage to the kidneys. In February 2016, a study published in the Journal Of The American Medical Association (JAMA) found PPIs increased a patient’s risk of developing chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.
Another study published in April 2016 in the Journal Of The American Society Of Nephology concluded patients who take PPIs had a 28% increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Additionally, the study also determined patients who take PPIs had a 96% increased change of developing end-stage kidney failure within five years of starting to use PPIs.
PPIs have been shown to cause a variety of kidney injuries including:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Acute interstitial nephritis (also known as Bright’s Disease)
- Acute kidney injury
- Kidney Failure (renal failure)
- Kidney removal
- Kidney transplant
- Kidney related death
- Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
What Is Chronic Kidney Disease?
Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common and serious conditions caused by PPIs. Chronic kidney disease is the gradual loss of kidney function over time. When the kidneys lose function, they are unable to remove waste, so the waste builds up in the bloodstream. When waste begins to build up in the bloodstream, patients can suffer from conditions like anemia, weak bones, and nerve damage, among others.
Chronic kidney disease can also lead to complete kidney failure, which will require a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, candidates for kidney transplants often have to wait months or years for a new kidney, and while they wait they have to undergo dialysis treatment regularly to avoid life-threatening complications.
Chronic kidney disease is dangerous for patients because the symptoms present themselves gradually and can appear to be very generic, making diagnosis difficult. By the time a patient experiences symptoms and receives a correct diagnosis, he or she could have already suffered permanent damage.
The Manufacturers’ Failure To Warn
Drug manufacturers have a responsibility to warn patients of all risks associated with their drugs. Unfortunately, the manufacturers of PPIs like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid failed to warn patients of the risks of kidney injuries. For patients who have suffered a kidney injury after taking a PPI, holding the manufacturers responsible may feel like an overwhelming and impossible task. However, with the help of an experienced pharmaceutical attorney, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.
National PPI Injury Lawyers
With over 30 years of experience standing up to big drug companies, the PPI lawyers at Blizzard & Nabers LLP are uniquely qualified to help patients who have suffered kidney injuries from PPIs. If you or someone you love obtained a kidney injury after taking heartburn medication, call Blizzard & Nabers LLP today for a free consultation.