Prilosec and Nexium are among the most popular medicines for acid reflux and recurring heartburn. Millions of Americans take these drugs, and for years we were told that they’re safe. But both Prilosec and Nexium can actually cause severe damage to the kidneys or even kidney failure and death. Neither doctors nor patients were warned of these risks by AstraZeneca, the maker the drugs.
If you or a loved one experienced kidney problems, bone fractures, or other serious medical conditions while taking Prilosec or Nexium, you need to speak to an attorney. AstraZeneca is liable for the side effects of these drugs and you could recover the costs of your treatment and ongoing care.
John Foy & Associates is one of the most experienced medical injury law firms in the nation. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get a free consultation today.
What are Prilosec and Nexium and how do they work?
Nexium and Prilosec are part of a class of drugs known as “proton pump inhibitors” or PPIs. PPIs reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. They do this by chemically blocking proton pumps—structures in certain cells that secrete hydrogen to create stomach acid. By shutting down these pumps, Prilosec can bring the stomach from a pH of 1 (highly acidic) to a pH of 5 (barely acidic at all). All PPIs work this way.
There is no doubt that PPIs are effective. They can:
- Quickly stop heartburn or GERD/acid reflux
- Sooth esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus from too much acid) or ulcers
- Reduce the chance of recurring esophagitis or other long-term effects of acid reflux
Because PPIs provide so much relief, they’ve become a very popular drug. Over 15 million Americans use PPIs, with Prilosec and Nexium among the most common. But many people end up taking these drugs too long, even long after the drug is no longer needed. This is often when problems start to crop up.
What problems can Prilosec and Nexium cause?
These drugs have many potential side effects. One of the most serious is one that patients were not warned about: the risk of serious kidney damage. PPI’s can cause acute kidney injury and inflammation of the kidneys, and long term use of Prilosec or Nexium may cause chronic kidney disease.
Chronic kidney disease or CKD is a permanent, life threatening condition where the kidneys slowly stop working. Your kidneys are responsible for removing waste products from the body, including excess water. In CKD, they lose their ability to function over the course of several months, often with no symptoms until the kidneys have almost completely failed. There is no way to reverse CKD. It requires either switching to dialysis (using a machine to filter the blood) or getting a kidney transplant. Without these interventions CKD leads to renal failure and death.
The connection between Prilosec/Nexium and CKD is well established. One study of over 10,000 patients found that those using PPIs had a 20% to 50% higher risk of chronic kidney disease. Additional test groups showed the same results. And patients taking PPIs have nearly twice the risk of dying prematurely.
Prilosec and Nexium also affect your bone health and can lead to an increase in fractures of the hip, wrists, and other fragile areas.
Who is at risk from Prilosec and Nexium?
Anyone, even an otherwise healthy person, faces potential kidney complications from these drugs. Long term use is associated with greater risk. Doctors are now starting to limit the length of time a patient can be on Nexium, but there are many patients who have used it for years. This is the group most likely to develop CKD.
Those who use it in higher doses, or twice a day rather than once a day, are at significantly higher risk of kidney problems.
The risk of bone fractures is greatest for patients who have used Prilosec or Nexium a year or more, and those over the age of 50.
What is the difference between Prilosec and Nexium?
The two drugs are nearly identical. Nexium is the newer drug, but it doesn’t offer any substantial advantages over Prilosec. Both have essentially the same active ingredient.
AstraZeneca created Nexium purely to get more profit out of Prilosec. Prilosec’s patent was about to expire, which would allow other companies to make cheaper versions of it and eat into AstraZeneca’s profits. To prevent this AstraZeneca decided to come up with a “new” drug that worked better—one that they had a fresh patent on. Nexium was created by taking the same molecule that’s in Prilosec and splitting it in half.
The two drugs are equally effective. Some studies suggest that Nexium is slightly better at soothing esophagitis, but other studies don’t. Nonetheless, AstraZeneca charges up to four times as much for Nexium than for Prilosec.
Nexium, Prilosec and the generic omeprazole all carry the same risks for bone fracture and kidney damage.
Who is liable for suffering caused by Prilosec/Nexium?
AstraZeneca is directly responsible for serious health conditions caused by these drugs. Under the law, they knew or should have known the full side effects of their product before marketing it. They did not make doctors aware of the risk of chronic kidney disease and renal failure, and as a result countless patients have been put at risk.
What’s worse, the use of Prilosec is often unnecessary. It’s given to many people who simply have occasional heartburn, rather than a serious ongoing condition. It appears that up to 70% of prescriptions may have been given inappropriately, and at least 25% of Prilosec users could stop taking it and with no risk of relapse. There are also safer heartburn drugs, called H2 blockers, that simply don’t cause CKD.
If you or someone you love suffered chronic kidney disease, a kidney injury, broken bones or any other serious problem while taking Prilosec or Nexium, we can help. The attorneys of John Foy & Associates are experienced at handling medical cases like yours. We may be able to get you a financial recovery that could pay for lost work time, existing medical bills, and long term treatment. We offer a FREE consultation and we charge nothing unless we get you a financial recovery. Call 404-400-4000 and get your free consultation today.