Drugs for acid reflux tied to greater risk of kidney damage

  • Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) are medications commonly used to treat some forms of acid reflux.1
  • In the ARIC study, the risk of chronic kidney disease was 50% higher in people taking a PPI vs. those who didn’t.2
  • Exercise caution when taking PPIs, especially if you or a loved one has a history of kidney disease.

PPIs are medications used to treat certain forms of acid reflux by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach. It is said that PPIs are among the most widely used classes of medications.1

Examples of PPIs include Prilosec (omeprazole), Pantoloc and Tecta (both pantoprazole), and Nexium (esomeprazole). This is not an exhaustive list.

As more people are taking PPIs for longer periods of time, unexpected safety issues such as the risk for dementia have been discovered.

Which begs the question, what other side effects might PPIs have?

According to Dr. Lazarus and colleagues, chronic kidney disease – as reported in their cohort study called ARIC, published in JAMA Internal Medicine.2

The ARIC study found that across hundreds of thousands of Americans, the risk of chronic kidney disease was 50% higher in people taking a PPI vs. those who didn’t.2

Now this study didn’t directly link PPIs as the cause of chronic kidney disease. It’s possible that people taking PPIs had other factors that might put them at risk of kidney diseases such as smoking or obesity. Then again, the study did try to correct for those factors.2

But here’s what’s really suspicious. The risk of chronic kidney disease in people taking PPIs twice a day was 31% higher than those taking it only once a day.2

In contrast, the risk of chronic kidney disease was not linked to a similar but older type of medication used to treat certain forms of acid reflux.2

Bottom line

  • PPIs may be harmful to the kidneys, but taking PPIs at a lower dose or avoiding PPIs may lower your risk of kidney disease.
  • If you or a loved one is taking PPIs, but has risk factors for kidney disease, ask your doctor if you should adjust your PPI treatment.
  • Risk factors for kidney disease include high blood pressure, smoking, or a family history of kidney disease.

Source study: Lazarus B, et al. JAMA Intern Med 2016;176(2):238-46. A paid subscription may be required.

References: 1. Gomm W, et al. JAMA Neurology 2016;73(4):410-6. 2. Lazarus B, et al. JAMA Intern Med 2016;176(2):238-46.

Photo adapted from original by John, used under license.

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