March 7, 2016 — Heartburn drugs in the Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) class have been linked to a 20-50% increased risk of kidney disease in a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine.
The most popular PPIs include Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec, which reduce the amount of acid made by the stomach. They are available with a prescription or over-the-counter and about 15 million Amerians use them to prevent acid reflux.
Researchers led by Dr. Morgan E. Grams of Johns Hopkins University decided to investigate rates of kidney inflammation (interstitial nephritis) between PPI-users and users of non-PPI heartburn drugs like Zantac, Tagamet, and Pepcid.
After tracking 10,482 people from February 1996 and October 2015, the use of PPIs was associated with up to a 50% increased risk of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).
Higher doses were also associated with higher risks, adding evidence to a causal relationship. People who took a PPI twice a day were 46% more likely to be diagnosed with CKD, compared to 15% of people who took a PPI once a day. However, Dr. Grams cautioned:
“The study doesn’t prove that PPIs cause kidney disease and we don’t want to cause alarm. … One approach for patients who require a long course of PPIs would be to routinely monitor their kidney function.”
No one is sure how PPIs could lead to kidney problems, but Dr. Grams said there were several theories. In 2011, the FDA issued a warning about low magnesium levels. Kidney damage could also occur after repeated bouts of inflammation.
In 2013, another study found that PPIs could constrict blood vessels and potentially increase blood pressure. Kidney disease is often caused by uncontrolled blood pressure, which overworks the kidneys and causes scarring.
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