Heartburn Meds Linked to Chronic Kidney Disease
While study can't prove cause-and-effect, increasing damage seen as dose rises
By Dennis Thompson
MONDAY, Jan. 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A type of heartburn medication called proton pump inhibitors may be linked to long-term kidney damage, a new study suggests.
Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid belong to this class of drugs, which treat heartburn and acid reflux by lowering the amount of acid produced by the stomach.
People who use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have a 20 percent to 50 percent higher risk of chronic kidney disease compared with nonusers, said lead author Dr. Morgan Grams, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
The study was published Jan. 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The study doesn't establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the drugs and chronic kidney disease. However, Grams said, "We found there was an increasing risk associated with an increasing dose. That suggests that perhaps this observed effect is real."
Proton pump inhibitors were used by more than 15 million Americans in 2013, according to background notes.
But as many as 70 percent of these prescriptions have been handed out inappropriately, and 25 percent of long-term users could stop taking the medication without suffering increased heartburn or acid reflux, the study authors said.
Use of the prescription heartburn drugs already has been linked to short-term kidney problems such as acute kidney injury and an inflammatory kidney disease called acute interstitial nephritis, Grams said.
Newer studies now show a link between the drugs and chronic kidney disease, in which the kidneys lose their ability to filter blood effectively.
Over time, chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, forcing someone to undergo regular dialysis and possibly a kidney transplant, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
In this new study, researchers used data on self-reported proton pump inhibitors use among more than 10,000 people taking part in a national study on hardening of the arteries. The researchers also evaluated data on outpatient PPI prescriptions among nearly 250,000 patients of a health care system in Pennsylvania.
From the start, PPI users in both groups were more likely to have health problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart problems, the study noted.