Common Heartburn Drugs May Raise Chronic Kidney Disease Risk

heartburnDo you suffer from heartburn and acid reflux and often take over-the-counter pills to treat the conditions? If yes, it could be dangerous for you, especially for your kidneys. Popping common heartburn pills may increase your risk for chronic kidney disease, warns a new study.

The novel study conducted by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University showed that proton pump inhibitors (PPI) used to treat heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux could elevate a person’s chance of developing kidney disease.

PPIs are a group of acid-suppressing medications that include such class of drugs as Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium. PPIs provide relief from heartburn and acid reflux by blocking the secretion of acid into the stomach.

However, the present study warns that the prolonged use of PPIs may cause long-term kidney damage.

“There appears to be mounting observational evidence that PPIs – historically a class thought to be extremely safe – have some adverse effects,” said principal investigator Dr. Morgan Grams, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“Given the widespread use of PPIs, even relatively rare adverse effects can impact large numbers of people,” Grams added. “Thus, I think it wise to be judicious in the use of PPIs.”

Heartburn and acid reflux sufferers who use popular acid-suppression medications are 20 to 50 percent more likely to have chronic kidney disease compared with nonusers, affirmed Dr. Grams.

To reach their findings, Grams and colleagues analyzed two large sets of data on self-reported proton pump inhibitors use. They evaluated the medical data of 10,482 people from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC), half of whom were tracked for more than 14 years. The team also evaluated data on outpatient PPI prescriptions among 248,751 subjects from the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania.

The team found that 322 people using PPIs in the ARIC study were at 11.8 percent more likely to develop kidney disease, while the 16, 900 study subjects from the Geisinger Health System who were taking PPIs were at 15.6 percent higher risk for kidney disease.

In previous research, use of the prescription heartburn drugs have been found to cause short-term kidney problems like acute kidney injury and an inflammatory renal disease called acute interstitial nephritis, Grams said.

The present study now establishes a link between the drugs and chronic kidney disease (CKD), in which the kidneys lose their ability to filter wastes and excess fluids from blood effectively.

“We found there was an increasing risk associated with an increasing dose. That suggests that perhaps this observed effect is real,” he said.

The study was published Jan. 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine.