Heartburn and acid reflux are two common ailments that affect millions of people each year. In America, it is estimated that about 20 million people use drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to treat these physical problems. These drugs are among the most commonly prescribed drugs worldwide; they also are available in over-the-counter versions (OTC).
Despite their popularity and acceptance by the medical community, PPIs have many side effects, including some very serious ones. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings about the use of proton pump inhibitors, citing dangers from long term usage. When these drugs are used for a year or longer, that use could cause physical problems to develop, including nutrient deficiencies that may lead to bone fractures and kidney disease or failure.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
The class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors includes many popular brand name medicines, including Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec. The primary function of these medicines is to block the body’s natural proton pump enzymes from overproducing gastric acid in the stomach. It is essential to have gastric acid for digestion of food, but when there is too much acid, the body may develop serious medical problems like ulcers, heartburn and gastroesphageal reflux disease (GERD).
The first of this class of drugs, Prilosec, was introduced around 1989 by manufacturer AstraZeneca, a global biopharmaceutical company. At first, Prilosec had a different name, Losec, but that was too often confused with another drug named Lasix. The two drugs had totally different purposes, and some people who took the wrong drug suffered great harm, including death from the mix-up. Another popular drug today is Nexium, also produce by AstraZeneca. These two brands, along with Prevacid, are three of the most popular PPIs on the market today. They are very similar, but Nexium is the highest priced of the trio.
Heartburn Medicine and Kidney Disease, Renal Failure and Dialysis
With long term use, proton pump inhibitors may lead to other medical problems, including serious kidney disease, renal failure and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. Although there have been no cause-and-effect results, various studies definitely show a relationships between use of these drugs and development of kidney function ailments and failure. The need for dialysis or a transplant may result from kidney disease.
One major problem in this area is that the drug manufacturers failed to warn consumers about many adverse side effects the company knew about. They hid that information, apparently to keep sales strong and prices high. For this, the company was sued and lost major class action and other lawsuits over personal injury due to their negligent behavior. In the most serious cases, consumers died from problems related to use of PPIs.
Hidden Risks – Kidney Problems
Many studies have revealed a relationship between taking proton pump inhibitor drugs over a long period of time and hidden risks of developing kidney problems. PPIs are a popular choice for heartburn and indigestion, but they do not work quickly. When someone has persistent digestive problems, they take these drugs for a longer period of time. The drugs are effective, but often only after being taken for several days. If used over a year, serious side effects are most likely to occur. The effects are increased in people who already are at risk for kidney problems, such as those with diabetes, obesity, or persons who are over age 60.
Kidney problems present a serious threat for physical harm and death. The kidneys are essential body organs. They filter the blood, removing waste products and extra water from the human body. They also stabilize electrolytes that affect internal process like muscle operation and blood acidity. The kidneys also produce hormones that help keep bones strong. One adverse side effect found in studies of PPI use is that the drugs may lower levels of calcium and magnesium, resulting in bone fractures.
The kidneys are so important to the human body that if they do not function properly, the blood cannot stay clean and excessive fluid accumulates in the body and lower extremities. The afflicted person may suffer from swollen ankles, nausea and vomiting, and kidney failure. If the kidneys do not function, it is life-threatening. The affected person may then need to undergo dialysis procedures or a kidney transplant to continue living.
Heartburn Medicine Studies
Studies done in 2013 and 2015 indicate an association between renal disease and use of proton pump inhibitors. It also was sown that a kidney disease called interstitial nephritis is linked to PPI usage. It was also found that kidney disease patients were twice as likely to have used PPIs previously. Another 2015 study showed that PPI users were more likely to develop kidney disease than people who used alternative heartburn medications.
Kidney Disease Lawsuits
When someone is harmed due to negligence by another person or company, they may seek justice through the legal system by filing a personal injury lawsuit. In cases where people developed kidney disease or failure after using proton pump inhibitors, it has been found that the manufacturer was negligent in not providing adequate warnings about adverse side effects from long term use of these drugs. Millions of people were affected in recent years, and many class action and individual lawsuits were pursued as a result of that harm.
- Damage Claims – When kidneys are diseased or failing, the medical costs are enormous. It may cost an individual up to $50,000 a year after insurance payments for kidney dialysis. Getting a kidney transplant is equally expensive. In either situation, the patient suffers tremendously both personally and financially. Damage claims in kidney disease lawsuits include compensation for medical care, rehabilitation, lost income, lifestyle changes, and other claims. If the person dies, their survivors may claim related funeral, burial and personal losses, including loss of companionship, guardianship and future inheritance.
- Negligence – When negligent behavior causes personal injury, it places responsibility and liability upon that person or company. These lawsuits establish negligence as a key element of the case. Deliberately not warning users about potential life-threatening side effects is negligent.
- Fair Compensation – This is a primary goal for filing a personal injury claim. There may be disputes about what constitutes fair compensation, but the idea is to make up in monetary terms for financial harm and personal harm caused by injuries due to negligent behavior.
- Settlements – In several class action judgments against the maker of PPI drugs, settlements have resulted in very high monetary awards, such as $20 million and $55 million against manufacturer AstraZeneca.
Personal Injury Attorney
Ongoing research is providing new evidence about the link between use of proton pump inhibitors and development of serious side effects, including kidney disease, renal failure and needs for dialysis or organ transplantation. If you or a loved one has suffered kidney problems after taking proton pump inhibitors, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss legal options that are available. They will also know if there are open class action lawsuits that you are eligible to join, or they can help you file an individual lawsuit to obtain justice for your personal injury harm.