Two new studies suggest medications taken to relieve symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn may be linked to a higher risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD). The studies, conducted by two different reserach teams, will be presented at the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) 2015 Kidney Week conference Nov. 3 to 8 in San Diego, according to an Oct. 27 news release.
The American Society of Nephrology reports that CKD – the gradual loss of kidney function over time – is on the rise, with more than 20 million Americans suffering from the disease. Diabetes and hypertension are common risk factors for CK. However, the results of the two new studies suggest that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – medicines such as Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium used to treat reflux, and other gastrointestinal conditions by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach – may be contributing to the rise in KCD.
In one study, researchers led by Dr. Benjamin Lazarus from Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in Australia and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, followed 10,482 adults with normal kidney function from 1996 to 2011. Their findings showed that PPI users were 20 percent to 50 percent more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those who did not take PPIs.
These findings were reinforced by a another study by the same research team, in which more than 240,000 people were followed from 1997 to 2014. However, both the Lazarus-led studies found that those who took a different class of medicines known as H2-blockers, including Tagamet, Zantac and Pepcid, did not have a higher risk of developing kidney disease.
In the second study, Dr. Predeep Arora, a nephrologist and associate professor at the SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Science in Buffalo, N.Y., and his colleagues found that 24,149 patients out of a group of 71,516 developed CKD between 2001 and 2008. Among that group, 25.7 percent had been treated with PPIs. While the PPI users were less likely to have vascular disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension, PPI use was linked to a 10 percent increased risk of CKD and a 76 percent increased risk of dying prematurely.
Arora told HealthDay there are two possible explanations for the link between PPIs and chronic kidney disease. The kidneys might become damaged over time if patients suffer repeated bouts of acute interstitial nephritis, a form of tissue inflammation, which has been linked with short-term use of PPIs, he said.
Arora also said that PPIs can cause magnesium levels in the blood to decline. A lack of this critical element might also cause damage to the kidneys.
Arora cautioned against using PPIs for anything other than more serious gastrointestinal disorders such as GERD, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally intended.
“As a large number of patients are being treated with PPIs, healthcare providers need to be better educated about the potential side effects of these drugs, such as CKD,” Aurora said in the news release. “PPIs are often prescribed outside of their approved uses, and it has been estimated that up to two-thirds of all people on PPIs do not have a verified indication for the drug.”