We have all seen the commercial for the “purple pill” or the Prilosec OTC commercials with Larry the Cable Guy zooming away on a jet ski. Nexium, Prilosec, Zantac, and other drugs, often packaged in purple boxes on the shelf, are also referred to as Proton Pump Inhibitors or PPIs. These common household medicines seem like a cure-all for heartburn, damaged esophagus, stomach ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Many people who take PPIs say they work unlike anything else, and now a prescription isn’t necessary–making it easier than ever to get them. However, new research indicates that the “purple pill” may be too good to be true.

Why Do People Use PPIs?

In most people, a sphincter muscle functions to close off the opening between the stomach and the esophagus, preventing stomach acid from entering the esophagus. However, if that muscle becomes weak, acid in the stomach (that aids in digestion) can move from the stomach to the esophagus and cause burning and damage to the wall of the esophagus. Drugs treatments aim to neutralize the acid or to decrease the production of acid by the wall of the stomach, which is exactly what PPIs do. Developed in the 1970s, PPIs have become a huge commercial success.

What the Pharmaceutical Companies Don’t Tell You

Recent studies have shown that Proton Pump Inhibitors cause acute or chronic kidney disease.  These drugs are also known to be quite addictive. Many people find it difficult to stop taking the drug, experiencing severe stomach pain caused by a surge in the amount of acid in the digestive system when they stop taking the PPI.

Significant side effects are associated with PPI use, especially in people who take them for long periods of time. Several studies have indicated that taking PPIs long-term can result in an increased fracture risk, increased risk of pneumonia, and a potential negative interaction with drugs like Clopidogrel, a drug used to decrease the formation of arterial blood clots.

More recently, PPIs have been implicated in a variety of kidney diseases. A recent JAMA article notes a significantly higher risk of chronic kidney disease with PPI use. In the study, the authors conclude alternative medications should be recommended due to the potential for extreme side effects. Unfortunately, no warning labels are present on the packaging of these products.

The Ruth Law Team is dedicated to holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for the health and safety of its consumers. While there are no current lawsuits against the manufacturers of these PPIs, there is the potential for future litigation. We are keeping a close eye on research and consumer warnings.