Popular heartburn medications such as Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium could lead to an increased risk of chronic kidney disease, according to a recently released report. Researchers at John Hopkins University said the drugs, known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPI), appear to significantly elevate chances of the disease. The study, set to be published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, involved more than 250,000 people. Chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure and about 13 percent of people in the U.S. suffer from the disease.
As many as 15 million Americans use PPI, which are available both by prescription and over-the-counter in both name-brand and generic forms. “They’re very, very common medications,” Morgan Grams, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, told NPR. The link to kidney disease wasn’t seen in medications such as Zantac and Pepcid, which block heartburn in a different way than the PPIs.
Dr. Grams said the study doesn’t prove the drugs cause chronic kidney disease and stressed that more research is needed. Experts stressed, however, that the drugs should only be used when needed. “Patients should only use PPIs for (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)-approved indications, and not to treat simple heartburn or (indigestion),” according to Dr. Pradeep Arora, a nephrologist and associate professor at the SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Science in Buffalo, N.Y.
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