Danger: Heartburn Drugs Could Increase Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease

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Newman_041115_2Two new studies have found that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a common medication used to treat heartburn, are associated with chronic kidney disease.

PPIs are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. Some PPIs are also available as over-the-counter medications. The medication works by lowering the amount of stomach acid produced in the stomach. By doing so, the medication can help treat acid reflux, heartburn, and stomach ulcers, as well as treat the damage caused by acid reflux.

While previous studies have linked PPIs to short-term or acute kidney problems, the two recent studies are the first time that PPIs have been found to possibly contribute to chronic kidney disease, indicating that they may permanently damage the kidneys.

One study, led by Dr. Pradeep Arora from the SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Science in New York, discovered that out of 240,000 individuals with chronic kidney disease, one in four had previously used PPIs. These individuals were twice as likely to die as those who did not use the medication.

The second study, led by Dr. Benjamin Lazarus from Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in Australia, followed over 10,000 individuals with normal kidney function during a 15-year period. Patients who took PPIs had a 50% greater rate of developing chronic kidney disease.

Both studies are being presented this week at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week 2015.

Chronic kidney disease affects more than 20 million Americans. People over the age of 60 are at an increased risk of developing kidney disease, as well as those with high blood pressure and diabetes.

Chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidneys are too damaged to properly filter blood. It usually does not have many noticeable symptoms until it’s in a later stage. If it’s not treated properly, chronic kidney disease can result in kidney failure, which requires either dialysis or kidney transplants and can lead to death.

While neither study could prove a cause-and-effect relationship between PPIs and chronic kidney disease, Dr. Arora believes that they show there is cause for concern, stating that it is “very reasonable to assume that PPIs themselves can cause chronic kidney disease.”

This seems especially likely because other heartburn medications did not show any link with chronic kidney disease. According to Dr. Lazarus, “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.”

While it is not known how PPIs could damage the kidneys, researchers have suggested that PPIs can cause acute tissue inflammation or declining magnesium levels, which could damage the kidneys.

With these two studies, researchers are concerned that PPIs are being overprescribed and may be having a damaging effect on people’s health.

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

Dr. Arora recommends only using PPIs to treat serious disorders, rather than using it to ease heartburn.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Common heartburn med could increase risk of kidney disease,” Medical News Today web site, October 27, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301624.php.
Thompson, D., “Heartburn Drugs Tied to Higher Kidney Disease Risk,” WebMD web site, October 27, 2015; http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20151027/chronic-heartburn-drugs-tied-to-higher-risk-of-kidney-disease.

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