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If you’re one of millions of Americans, you’ve probably heard of proton pump inhibitors. Their more popular name is “heartburn drug,” and they’re on store shelves under the names Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid, to name a few.
In addition to treating heartburn, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are used to treat ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems. But there are dangers lurking within these drugs.
Proton pump inhibitors have been linked to kidney damage, bone fractures, and dementia. Now, a new study says they may be responsible for an increased risk of death.
This post will examine the various types of proton pump inhibitors, what they do, the problems reported, and how to get help if you’ve been injured by a proton pump inhibitor.
What are proton pump inhibitors used for?
The purpose of PPIs is to reduce the production of acid in the stomach. When you ingest a PPI, it gets to work on blocking a stomach enzyme that produces acid, H+/K+ ATPase. Ulcers in the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine are then able to heal, and the PPIs prevent new ulcers from forming.
Some of the gastrointestinal disorders associated with excessive acid secretion are:
- Indigestion (heartburn)
- Stomach or peptic ulcer
- GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Dumping Syndrome
- Stress Ulcer Prophylaxis
- Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
- Aspiration Pneumonia
- Barrett’s Esophagus
To treat heartburn, you have options. Antacids, like Tums or Rolaids, will usually help with mild indigestion by changing the stomach acid causing heartburn. Over-the-counter PPIs are used to treat frequent heartburn by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach. H2 blockers, like Pepcid and Zantac, also reduce the amount of acid in the stomach.
List of Proton Pump Inhibitors
Prescription PPIs are generally used to treat GERD, ulcers, and esophagus inflammation and aren’t supposed to be taken for longer than 14 days or more than 3 times per year.
Some of the common PPIs (and their generic names) used to treat any of these conditions include:
- Nexium (esomeprazole)
- Prevacid (lansoprazole)
- Prilosec (omeprazole)
- Protonix (pantoprazole)
- Aciphex (rabeprazole)
- Zegerid (omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate)
- Kapidex (dexlansoprazole)
- Dexilant (dexlansoprazole)
Are proton pump inhibitors dangerous?
So you think you’re doing a good thing for your body by taking a proton pump inhibitor. They help manage your heartburn symptoms and make you feel better. Plus, many are over-the-counter and not even prescription drugs, so what’s the big deal?
Like any drug, PPIs can have various side effects, some mild and some serious. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to consumers in 2012 about the potential for diarrhea that does not improve after taking PPIs, for example, and in 2010, a warning about the increased possibility for fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine. The latter was for patients who had received high doses of PPIs or used them for a year or more; the FDA thus revised the Drug Facts section on labels as a precaution. PPI use also has been linked to increased risk for dementia, kidney disease, and more.
A new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis now says proton pump inhibitors may be linked to an increased risk of death. But how?
More than 275,000 PPI users and about 74,000 H2 blocker users were analyzed in the study, in addition to about 310,000 people who had never been exposed to PPIs. They were followed for a median of 5.71 years.
“There were significant baseline differences in that cohort participants who were treated with PPI were older and were more likely to have comorbid conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and hyperlipidaemia. Cohort participants treated with PPI were also more likely to have upper GI tract bleeding, ulcer disease, H. pylori infection, Barrett’s oesophagus, achalasia, stricture and oesophageal adenocarcinoma.”
The results were consistent in terms of the risk of death increasing for those who used PPIs versus those who used H2 blockers or no acid suppression therapy at all, “in particular among cohort participants without GI comorbidities, and that risk is increased with prolonged duration of PPI exposure.”
Proton Pump Inhibitors Lawsuits
It’s important to read all the warning labels associated with PPIs, to not take the drugs for longer than or in greater quantities than advised and to speak with your doctor if you’re continuing to exhibit symptoms after taking the drugs.
That said, prescription PPI use has doubled over the past 10 years, with no signs of slowing down. Standardizing the guidelines for prescribing PPIs may reduce overuse — as it stands, it’s estimated that between 25% to 70% of PPI users have no appropriate indication before taking the drug.
The Washington University study’s authors concluded the following about the risk and associated problems of PPI use:
“PPIs are widely used by millions of people for indications and durations that were never tested or approved; they are available over the counter (without prescription) in several countries and generally perceived as a safe class of therapeutics. They are often overprescribed, rarely de-prescribed and frequently started inappropriately during a hospital stay, and their use extended for long-term duration without appropriate medical indication.”
If you or your loved one has been injured by a PPI, you should contact the experienced product liability attorneys of Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz. You may be able entitled to recovering compensation for damages. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.