Medicine News

CKD Epidemic Linked To Heartburn Medications

Common drugs used to treat heartburn and acid reflux have been associated with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to two new studies.

Researchers warn that while Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium, may be effective in treating stomach ulcers and reflux, they may also impair kidney function, leading to CKD. CKD can result in more serious health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

In the first study, which spanned fifteen years from 1996 to 2011, a Johns Hopkins University research team led by Benjamin Lazarus tracked 10,482 adults, all of which had normal kidney functions. Of the study’s participants, PPI users were found to have a 20 to 50 percent increased risk of developing CKD than non-users.

From 1997 to 2014, a second study led by Dr. Pradeep Arora from State University of New York tracked a larger sample size of 24,149 patients, finding a similar increased risk of 25.7 percent.

Lazarus notes that those who used alternative medications to treat their stomach conditions were not found to have an increased risk at developing kidney problems.

“In both studies,” Lazarus explains, “people who used a different class of medications to suppress stomach acid, known as H2-blockers, did not have a higher risk of developing kidney disease”. reports that PPIs had previously been linked to short-term kidney problems such as acute kidney injury and acute interstitial nephritis. These new studies are the first to produce data that illustrate the effect of long-term PPI use.

The National Institutes of Health explains that chronic kidney disease has become a major health problem among the public, describing its prevalence as an “epidemic”. They also warn that CKD can lead to an increased risk of other long-term health issues, such as cardiovascular disease.

Lazarus said that part of the problem with PPIs is that they are being overused. “If we know the potential adverse effects of PPI medications we can design better interventions to reduce overuse”, he said.

According to Dr. Arora, health care providers that are increasingly treating patients with PPIs need to be more informed about the possible risks in using these drugs.

As a large number of patients are being treated with PPIs, health care providers need to be better educated about the potential side effects of these drugs, such as CKD

The problem is exacerbated, Dr. Arora says, when PPIs are prescribed for symptoms they are not intended to treat; a common occurrence, he said.

According to U.S. data, 90 percent of the prescriptions for PPI are not related to FDA-approved indications. We are using this medication right and left, and it may be counterproductive for many patients.

Among the total group of participants in the second study, Researchers did find a decreased risk of other health problems among PPI users, such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, a 10 percent increased risk of CKD was found with PPI use, and perhaps more significantly, a 76 percent chance of premature death.

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