Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are powerful drugs that can stop heartburn and reduce acid in the stomach. Unfortunately, they have also proven themselves to be dangerous. PPIs can have unexpected side effects including kidney damage, kidney disease, and even outright kidney failure. They can also lead to bone fractures. If you have taken Prilosec, omeprazole, or any other PPI and experienced these conditions, we can help you.
John Foy & Associates is one of the largest and most experienced medical injury law firms in the country. We have been following PPI developments carefully, and we believe that patients have been gravely harmed. We may be able to help you win a financial recovery including reimbursement for all of your medical bills, ongoing care, and pain and sufferings. Let us discuss your case with you, with no obligation. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get a free consultation today.
What are proton pump inhibitors?
PPIs are a class of medicines used mainly for heartburn. They work differently from other heartburn medications because they don’t try to neutralize acid in the stomach. In fact, they aren’t antacids at all. Instead, PPIs work to prevent the stomach from making acid in the first place.
This is a delicate process. In your stomach lining, there are special cells dedicated to making acid. These cells use a structure known as a “proton pump” which pump out positively charged hydrogen ions. These hydrogen particles react to form stomach acid, allowing you to break down food. But too much stomach acid can cause heartburn or irritate damage to the stomach.
To fix this, PPIs shut down acid production at the source. They block the proton pumps at the chemical level, preventing them from releasing the hydrogen ions and making acid. It’s like turning off the faucets that put acid in your stomach. But if used too much or for too long, it can also affect your body’s ability to absorb crucial nutrients.
When are PPIs supposed to be used?
There are three main circumstances where PPIs are recommended:
- GERD/recurring heartburn. Everyone experiences heartburn from time to time. But if you experience it regularly, you may have GERD. GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease or “acid reflux.” It means that the bottom of your esophagus does not seal fully, and the contents of your stomach—including acid—come back up into the esophagus, burning it. Because PPIs inhibit the production of acid, they can be extremely effective in relieving GERD.
- Ulcers. The lining of your stomach and small intestine is supposed to protect those organs from the harsh acid they contain. Sometimes, this lining is damaged. This is known as a peptic ulcer. Ulcers can cause a gnawing, burning pain and are tied to an imbalance in digestive juices. Thus, reducing acid with PPIs can both relieve the immediate pain and potentially help the ulcer heal long-term.
- Stomach damage from other NSAID drugs. NSAIDs are basic pain reliever/anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin. These drugs are sold over the counter and are usually safe in small doses. However, too much of these drugs can damage the stomach lining, causing damage similar to ulcers. Clinically, this is called NSAID induced gastropathy, and symptoms include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
When used as a short-term treatment, PPIs can help relieve any of these conditions. But if overused, or given for the wrong reasons, PPIs can be extremely dangerous.
Are PPIs ever inappropriately prescribed?
Unfortunately, yes. Because PPIs have such a fast, dramatic effect, they are vulnerable to overuse. The most common inappropriate uses include:
- Overuse for heartburn. Patients who suffer from heartburn/acid reflux may think of PPIs as a miracle drug. But the best way to solve heartburn long term is through changes in diet and lifestyle. Unfortunately, PPIs like Prilosec may be recommended over and over as a “silver bullet” for all heartburn complains. When the patient uses the drug long term, they may end up with serious damage and life-threatening side effects.
- Inappropriately prescribed with steroids. Steroids are powerful drugs that doctors will prescribe for specific clinical reasons. Unfortunately, many doctors wrongly recommend a patient take PPIs along with their steroids. The reasoning is that the PPIs will help prevent stomach damage. But, unless the steroids are also couples with NSAIDs, this is rarely necessary. Up to 90% of patients told to take PPIs with their steroids do not meet the criteria for doing so.
The result of this misuse can be kidney disease, broken bones or other serious side effects.
How do PPIs cause kidney damage/kidney disease?
The reason the stomach produces acid is to break down food and make it easier for the body to absorb nutrients. When the acid is blocked, it becomes difficult for the body to take in key minerals including magnesium and calcium, which can lead to serious long term effects.
One of the most dangerous of those effects is interstitial nephritis, or inflammation of the kidney. PPIs directly cause nephritis. This is dangerous because nephritis is often a precursor to much more serious kidney problems—and indeed, PPI use correlates with a progression to chronic kidney disease as well. Chronic kidney disease means that your kidney is slowly shutting down, no longer filtering and cleaning the blood the way it once did.
PPI use also corresponds to developing end stage renal disease, a fatal condition where the kidney loses all of its function and fails. Kidney failure means you will have to switch to a dialysis machine—a mechanical way to filter the blood—for the rest of your life. Without dialysis, the patient will die.
How do PPIs lead to broken bones?
It may be surprising that a heartburn medicine can cause broken bones, but this phenomenon is well documented. It is likely connected to PPIs inhibiting the absorption of calcium. If PPIs are used for a long time, or in high doses, the bones may become frail. The FDA warns that patients using PPIs are at high risk of broken hips, wrists, and even spines.
Which specific medicines are PPIs?
The PPI class includes a large number of drugs, such as:
- Omeprazole (under the brand names Prilosec, Gasec, Omepral, UlcerGard, GastroGard, and others)
- Lansoprazole (Prevacid, Inhibitol, and others)
- Dexlansoprazole (Kapidex, Dexilant)
- Esomeprazole (Nexium, Esotrex, esso)
Do I have a PPI lawsuit?
If you took any brand name or generic PPI—by prescription or over the counter—and you experienced kidney problems or broken bones, you have a case. The maker of the drug you took acted with negligence, and they are responsible for the damage done. We can help you make a financial recovery.
There is no way to reverse a serious medical condition like kidney disease. But that doesn’t mean you have to bear the costs alone. Jon Foy & Associates can help you hold the drug companies responsible and potentially get rid of your medical bills for good. We will sit down with you for a FREE consultation and discuss your case. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get your free consultation today.