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Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) are a commonly used type of medication for the treatment of heartburn, ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and acid reflux. 1 Since they entered the US market almost 40 years ago, these heartburn drugs have been associated with health complications such as hip fracture and community-acquired pneumonia. 2 Recent studies have also linked the use of heartburn medicine to other serious, potentially fatal conditions such as:
The results of studies on PPIs linking these drugs to kidney failure and other side effects may have a tremendous impact on public health, given the widespread use of these medications.
PPIs are sold under both generic and brand names, by prescription and over-the-counter (OTC). They decrease the production of acid in the stomach. This type of heartburn medicine is one of the highest-selling types of drugs in the United States. 6 Examples of frequently used PPIs include:
Symptoms of chronic kidney disease may include:
End-stage renal disease (ESRD), also known as end-state kidney disease or end-stage renal failure, is the final and most severe stage of CKD. ESRD occurs when your kidneys are no longer able to sustain your body’s needs. In the April 2016 volume of the journal Medicine, the authors reported an almost doubling of the risk of ESRD amongst PPI users. 12 In order to treat ESRD, you may need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Common symptoms of ESRD are the same as those for CKD, but also may include:
A 2015 study in CMAJ Open found that patients who took PPIs were three times as likely to develop acute interstitial nephritis (AIN) as those who did not take PPIs. 14 AIN occurs when the area between the kidney tubules become inflamed. It can lead to mild kidney problems, but can also lead to life-threatening conditions such as acute kidney failure.
Symptoms of AIN include:
The same 2015 study in CMAJ Open that found increased risk of AIN in those taking PPIs also found that people taking PPIs were three times as likely to be diagnosed with AIN, during the time the study examined when compared with people not taking PPIs. 16
AKI, also referred to as acute renal failure or acute kidney failure, occurs when your kidneys suddenly lose their ability to filter out waste from your blood. This loss of function develops over the course of hours or days and may be fatal. 17
Symptoms may include:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has alerted the public about other possible side effects of these heartburn drugs, including: