Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been available in the marketplace since the late 1980s as a remedy for heartburn and other acid-related diseases. Along with other anti-ulcer medications, in 2012, PPIs ranked in the 9th largest class of drugs prescribed in the United States and as the 11th most popular drug in sales. Many PPI brands are available also as over-the-counter (OTC) products.
With such widespread popularity, it was inevitable that any side effect problems would be noted. Within the legal industry, much attention has been paid to the long term effects of proton pump inhibitors. As serious medical problems have occurred due to PPI side effects, many individual and class action lawsuits have been filed that claim the manufacturer failed to properly warn consumers about a large number of possible side effects. The profitability of these drugs created another issue, that of price fixing and manipulation of the marketing to persuade consumer to purchase more expensive drugs that were actually identical to lower priced brands.
Proton Pump Inhibitors Long Term Effects
Physicians, pharmacists and patients all are concerned with any side effects that may arise from use of drugs they prescribe or that are available over-the-counter. With the recent popularity of proton pump inhibitors in the marketplace, attention has been focused on long term effects of usage of these drugs.
The body has an internal proton pump that creates gastric acid to help with digestion of food. If too much acid is released, it can create problems within the digestive system, such as heartburn or acid reflux (GERD). In 1989, the first PPI drug was developed and put on the market by manufacturer AstraZeneca. PPI drugs are not designed as a remedy for instant relief of heartburn. They were made to work on a long term basis when heartburn occurred frequently, several times a week. PPI drugs take a longer time to work, but with ingestion of these drugs over a longer period of time, the potential for side effects is increased.
Over time, it was discovered that proton pump inhibitors did have serious side effects that were not publicized by the manufacturer. In response, people who suffered from side effects filed individual and class action lawsuits to recover fair compensation for damage claims related to use of those drugs. The primary issue of these legal actions is negligent behavior, in that there were no warnings about many serious side effects that could result from use of these drugs. Even though the manufacturer was aware of the potential harm that could arise from long term use of PPIs, they hid that information. It also appears that they had manipulated pricing to earn a greater profit from more expensive brands of identical drugs they produced.
PPIs – Hidden Risks
As studies began to show there were many hidden risks involved with PPI consumption, little was publicized or included on package warning alerts. This class of drugs has many side effects, some minor, but others can be extremely risky and result in serious physical harm. In addition to potential problems with serious side effects, these drugs can react when used with other medicines, creating additional medical problems.
- Low Risk Side Effects – Typical minor side effects that may occur when using PPIs include headache, nausea, fever, rash, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, flatulence and diarrhea.
- Physical Concerns – Long term use of PPIs may result in physical issues like malabsorption of important body minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. This problem can lead to very serious injuries like bone fractures or cardiac abnormalities. Low serum magnesium levels can cause convulsions, muscle spasms and irregular heartbeat.
- Serious Side Effects – PPIs have been responsible for serious side effects that many users were not warned about. These include serious allergic reactions, pancreatitis, reduced liver function, toxic epidermal necrolysis, pneumonia, and problems involving the kidneys. Some of the most serious side effects from long term use of PPIs are the development of kidney disease, kidney failure and dementia.
Lawsuits – Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid
Lawsuits have been filed across the nation by individuals and groups (class action lawsuits) who have been harmed by use of PPIs. Three of the most popular drugs in this class that have been featured in these lawsuits are all made by AstraZeneca. They are: Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid.
- Damage Claims – Physical harm claims include requests for fair compensation to cover related medical care expenses, income loss, recovery care costs, rehabilitation and other financial costs that are due to side effect complications. If someone died from PPI use, their survivors may also be able to sue for expenses of the funeral and burial costs, loss of companionship, guardianship and future inheritance. Pain and suffering may also be included in some cases.
- Negligence – When a manufacturer fails to disclose potential harmful effects a product may have, they may be accused of negligence if the user suffers physical or financial harm. Another area of concern is deliberate manipulation of the marketing of a product. In one case, AstraZeneca was accused of price fixing and marketing more expensive drugs over identical ones or taking the cheaper drug off the market just to gain financially. The goal of law is to encourage responsibility for actions that affect the consumer. When a person or company is negligent in their behavior and that causes harm to another person, they are liable for expenses related to that injury.
- Fair Compensation – To recover from financial and physical harm due to negligence, the victim can pursue legal action to gain fair compensation for the impact that harm has upon their lives and that of loved ones. If someone dies from use of a PPI drug, their survivors may be able to obtain compensation for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and other claims. The person who was injured may file an individual lawsuit or join a class action lawsuit to obtain fair compensation.
Class Action Lawsuits & Settlements
In many legal actions, large groups of people who have similar suffering due to negligence of a person or company in a particular situation can come together to file a class action lawsuit. These lawsuits may result in extremely large settlements, like the $20 million settlement reached in one PPI lawsuit against AstraZeneca. The small group of people who originated the lawsuit will receive a larger piece of the award, but everyone in the large group shares in any distribution, plus their individual costs are lower than if they filed an individual lawsuit.
Personal Injury Attorney
Your own personal injury attorney can advise you about your eligibility to join a class action lawsuit. There have been several class action lawsuits already settled for claims due to damage from PPI drugs, but others remain open. Another option is to file your own individual lawsuit. By consulting with an attorney who is experienced handling PPI cases, you can learn about your legal options and achieve best results for obtaining fair compensation.