Heartburn drugs taken by millions daily are linked to kidney damage and renal failure “at an alarming rate,” a new report warns this week. Heartburn, acid reflux and ulcers are treated with this medication that is one of the most over-prescribed drugs of modern day pharmacology.
These drugs are sold over-the counter and they are also prescribed by doctors. Researchers at the Clinical Epidemiology Center at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System and Washington University in Saint Louis probed previous findings that the proton pump inhibitors (PPI) were linked to kidney disease. They not only were able to confirm these earlier findings, but they also discovered that these drugs are linked to renal failure at an “alarming rate,” according to MSN News on April 15.
These results suggest the prescribing of these drugs need to be for the shortest duration possible and to use this drug only when it is medically necessary. This study entailed tracking subjects for five years. There were 173,321 subjects who were new users of PPIs and 20,270 subjects who were new users of another class of these drugs called histamine H2 receptor blockers.
These patients were all selected from the Department of Veteran Affairs national database. The findings of this study were published this week in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The researchers found: “PPIs have the propensity to increase the risk of chronic kidney disease by 28 percent and developing kidney failure by 96 percent compared to the patients who took the H2 receptor blockers.
They found the longer the patients took the drugs, the greater they put themselves at risk for kidney damage,” according to MSN News. The H2 receptor blockers, which were the drugs of choice before PPIs came along, are a “kidney safe” alternative.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University did a similar study that was published in JAMA ’s February 2016 edition an they found the same risk exists between PPI use and chronic kidney disease. This latest study confirmed the results of the one published in February, which stated these drugs are linked to kidney disease, but it also took it a step further. They found that the PPI medication also “drastically increases the risk of developing kidney failure.”
Besides doctors frequently prescribing these drugs, they are also sold over-the-counter. When drugs are available without prescription folks tend to feel that they are safe or they wouldn’t be an over-the-counter drug. They figure that the FDA wouldn’t have them available for the asking if they posed any type of health risk when taken as prescribed on the label.
This alarming study doesn’t go unscathed without some critiquing. According to News Max today, Dr. Kenneth R. DeVault, president of the American College of Gastroenterology and chair of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, looks at the study from another angle, he wants you to consider the data base of patients used in this study. He said:
“Keep in mind that the study population was a veteran’s hospital, a relatively older population that had lots of other diseases. One would have to assume if you were the average healthy person taking a proton pump inhibitor for heartburn the odds would be even lower than the low odds in this study.” He said that while the “risk is real, the odds are low.” It doesn’t sound like it’s time to toss out your PPI medication, but it does sound like a conversation with your doctor on your use of the drug is in order if you need to set your mind at ease!
According to Healthline, there are seven available Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) medicines that are roughly equal in effectiveness and safety but differ in cost. These are “Three- omeprazole (Prilosec, Prilosec OTC), lansoprazole (Prevacid, Prevacid 24HR), and omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid, Zegerid OTC)- are available as both prescription and nonprescription drugs.” There are other PPIs on the market, such as Nexium, which is often referred to the “purple pill.” The Nexium website describes how a PPI works.
According to MSN, “researchers recommend PPIs should be avoided, especially when acid reflux or the like can easily be treated with kidney-safe H2 blockers.” According to Healthline, the H2 receptor blockers are “acid-reducing drugs known as H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid), and ranitidine (Zantac),” along with others. They will very likely provide relief. “All of those products are available without a prescription as low-cost generics.”