Certain acid reflux medications known as proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs) have been called into question due to concerns about serious and potentially life-threatening side effects. With more than 15 million Americans taking these medications on a regular basis, it’s no wonder lawsuits continue to crop up across the country.
Originally introduced to the healthcare market more than 25 years ago, proton pump inhibitor medications were developed to combat acid reflux and related issues by stopping its cause rather than treating its symptoms.
The primary culprit in cases of acid reflux is an overproduction of stomach acid. PPIs prevent this by directly targeting the system that controls this process: the gastric proton pump, a special protein in the membrane of certain stomach cells. As their name suggests, PPIs block the function of this pump irreversibly, inhibiting acid secretion and eliminating reflux symptoms as a result.
Some of the most commonly used PPIs in current times include the following:
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Medical Associations (JAMA) and the Journal of the American Society of Nephrologists (JASN) revealed some startling insights regarding the effects of proton pump inhibitors on kidney function. Using patient data from both the Department of Veterans Affairs and Johns Hopkins University, the study compared the outcomes of PPI users to those of patients taking H2 blockers (another kind of acid reflux medication).
At the onset of the study, none of the participants involved showed any signs of kidney damage.
Analysis of the data revealed that PPI users had an increased risk of inflammation in the spaces between the renal tubes of the kidney—a condition called “interstitial nephritis” that can lead to serious infections, toxicities, autoimmune disorders, and damage to other major organs. The data also suggested that prolonged use of PPIs led to a significant increase in chronic kidney damage, kidney disease, and kidney failure, resulting in dialysis or death.
Over five years of data collection, researchers found that a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease was 4% higher in PPI users than in those taking H2 blockers. PPI users were also 96% more likely to develop end-stage renal disease (complete kidney failure) than those taking H2 blockers.
Other medical professionals, like gastroenterologist Dr. Frank Mueller at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in the U.K., have similarly concluded that PPIs are the most probable cause of drug-related interstitial nephritis. In his own patients, Dr. Mueller finds that renal function typically improves when the drugs are stopped (sometimes with steroid assistance).
If you or someone you know has been taking a proton pump inhibitor, and you are worried about the risk of kidney failure, watch for symptoms like the following:
If these symptoms start to occur after taking PPIs, seek medical attention immediately and let them know about your concerns. Talk to your doctor before stopping or altering your medication regimen.
Kidney failure is not the only risk that doctors and other healthcare professionals are worried about. Proton pump inhibitors have also raised concerns about potential links to things like vitamin deficiencies, neurological issues, heart disease, and new or worsening stomach issues.
Although PPIs were considered safe for many years, doctors and researchers are now looking into whether the medications are a causal factor in side effects like the following:
Doctors also have concerns about whether PPIs are even the right choice of treatment for patients. A feeling of heartburn is not always a sign of excess stomach acid; in fact, many cases of heartburn are actually “hypochlorhydria,” the condition of having too little stomach acid. Without sufficient acid, the food in the stomach rots and produces the lactic acid that creates symptoms. If a person with hypochlorhydria takes PPIs, they may be doing the opposite of what they need. The severity of symptoms can even increase after trying to stop the medications.
If you have taken a proton pump inhibitor and suspect that later harm or illness may have been caused by these medications, you may be owed compensation for the damage caused. The answer to whether or not your concerns warrant a lawsuit depends strongly upon the details of your situation and whether there is sufficient information available to suspect PPIs as the cause of the problem(s).
The best way to find out if you have a lawsuit is to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer like those at Saunders and Walker. Our expert harmful drug attorneys can help you understand your rights and obligations as well as determine whether or not you have a case for court.
At Saunders & Walker, P.A., we’re fighting for the rights of those harmed by proton pump inhibitor medications. We help victims develop a strong case based on medical evidence and guide them step-by-step through the legal process.
To schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with a harmful drug lawyer, contact us online or call us at (727) 579-4500.