What is a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI)?

Proton Pump Inhibitors, or PPIs, are commonly used to treat certain stomach and esophageal problems, such as acid reflux. You may know them by brand names such as Prilosec, Prevacid or Nexium, also known as the “Purple Pill.” They are found in medicine cabinets across the nation, in fact, 15 million people in the United States alone are taking these drugs. PPIs are not only part a multi-billion dollar industry, but they also may be the culprit for serious health complications.

What is the problem?

Proton Pump Inhibitors work by blocking acid buildup in the stomach, relieving symptoms such as heartburn, cough, upset stomach or other side effects of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD. PPIs can be purchased over the counter, so no prescription is necessary. Unfortunately, long-term use of these medications may cause issues with a person’s ability to absorb vital nutrients and could put users at risk for serious health problems. Researchers have determined that consumers taking PPIs are exposed to a 96% increased risk for kidney failure, and users are widely unaware of the risks.

PPI Health Risks & Symptoms

Recent studies from JAMA and JASN report that continued use of PPIs can cause serious side effects, including an increased risk of the following:

  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Bone fractures
  • Intestinal infections
  • Heart attack
  • Pneumonia
  • Negative interactions with other drugs like Copidogrel
  • Acute Interstitial Nephritis (AIN)

Unfortunately, warnings about the risk for kidney damage are not placed on the packaging of these products. The drugs may also be addictive, and some people find it difficult to stop taking PPIs.

A Brief History

Omeprazole was the first PPI to hit the market in 1988, followed by Lansoprazole, which came to the US in 1995. Decades later, more is known about the risks associated with taking these medications. The following timeline outlines new information about the risks associated with the drugs:

  • May 25, 2010: The FDA published information regarding the link between long-term use of PPIs and an increased risk for fracture of the spine, wrist and hip.
  • March 2, 2011: The FDA reports that low magnesium levels may be associated with long-term use of PPIs.
  • March 22, 2011: The FDA determines a warning label regarding the increased risk of fracture is unnecessary.
  • February 8, 2012: The FDA informed the public that PPIs could increase the risk for Clostridium difficile, or associated diarrhea.
  • December 11, 2013: A JAMA study suggests using PPIs may lead to vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • November 2014: The FDA requires a warning on some packages about associated diarrhea and interactions with other drugs.
  • January 11, 2016: A JAMA Internal Medicine study finds PPI use is associated with a higher risk of chronic kidney disease.
  • April 2016: A JAMA Neurology study suggests PPI use could increase the risk for dementia.
  • April 16, 2016: A CMAJ Open study finds adults aged 66+ who take PPIs have an increased risk of acute kidney injury and AIN.

What You Should Do

Many medical professionals are now advising patients only to only PPIs when medically necessary and to not rely on them for long periods of time. Speak with your doctor about the risks of taking these medications, and explore any alternatives. Non-drug treatments for symptoms include the following:

  • Avoiding food and alcohol within three hours of bedtime
  • Elevating the head of the bed
  • Avoiding drugs that induce the cause (i.e. Aspirin, Motrin and other NSAIDS)
  • Consuming foods that won’t trigger heartburn
  • Trying an antacid or H2 Blocker
  • Losing weight/exercising

Current Status of Litigation

Manufacturers have spent billions of dollars marketing these PPIs- the most profitable drug in history. The Ruth Law Team is dedicated to keeping the public informed about the risks associated with using these drugs. For more than 35 years, we have been fighting to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the safety of consumers. If you or a loved one has developed kidney disease, renal failure or other kidney damage after taking PPIs, please call The Ruth Law Team at 1-888-Steve-Ruth.