Many Americans suffer from painful heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. While there are many ways to combat these conditions, prescription medication remains the most popular method for treating chronic digestive problems.
Unfortunately, one of the most common classes of heartburn drugs may place a patient at risk of severe injuries or even death.
What Are Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI)?
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1989, and offered a new way to treat chronic stomach ailments such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcers. Stomach acid is produced by glands (proton pumps) in the lining of the stomach. PPIs work by cutting back the amount of acid the stomach can produce, lowering the overall levels to prevent acid from causing irritation to the esophagus or creating ulcers.
Today, proton pump inhibitors are the most popular heartburn medications in the nation. Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Aciphex, Protonix, Zegerid, and Dexilant, are some of the highest-grossing PPIs, many of which are available in both prescription and over-the-counter versions. It's estimated that over 15 million Americans use a PPI medication, generating over $3 billion for drug makers every year.
Dangerous Side Effects of PPI Heartburn Medications
Researchers recently identified worrying trends in patients using proton pump inhibitor medications, especially if patients take these drugs for extended periods of time. Studies show that PPIs can significantly increase a patient’s risk of:
- Kidney disease or failure. PPIs are found to place considerable strain on the kidneys, causing some patients to suffer chronic kidney disease (CKD), acute kidney injury, acute interstitial nephritis, or even renal failure. One 2016 study found that patients who took PPIs were 28 percent more likely to suffer CKD and 96 percent more likely to experience end-stage renal disease than patients who used older heartburn medications called histamine 2 blockers for their conditions.
- Heart attack or stroke. Patients taking PPI medications for an extended period of time are also at an increased risk of cardiac events such as heart attacks, cardiac arrest, and strokes.
- Severe infections. Studies indicate that patients who use PPIs for a year or more could suffer deficiencies in their immune systems, making them less able to fight off infections such as pneumonia or C. difficile, which involves the colon.
- Bone fractures. Patients taking PPIs have a greater risk of suffering low bone mineral density, making them more likely to experience hip, leg, and spinal fractures as well as complications from osteoporosis.
- Dementia. A 2016 study connected proton pump inhibitors to a higher risk of cognitive problems in older patients. Participants in the study who were over 75 and took PPIs had a 44 percent higher risk of developing dementia.
Could I File a Lawsuit If I Suffered a Heartburn Medication Injury?
Pharmaceutical companies are in the business of making money, and have been known to ignore health concerns in order to generate higher profits. This can lead to unethical and illegal practices, such as encouraging doctors to prescribe medications with no underlying need, or to prescribe medication for non-indicated, or “off-label,” reasons.
A company may also encourage patients to use PPIs for several months or years, even if the drugs are only intended to be used for short and controlled-treatment periods.
Several lawsuits nationwide are still pending against the makers of proton pump inhibitors, including allegations involving the manufacturers of Prilosec and Nexium. While allegations vary depending on the individual case, many patients claimed that drug makers:
- Failed to adequately warn consumers about the risk of known injuries
- Engaged in fraudulent marketing practices
- Failed to perform or release clinical trial reports
- Negligently placed consumers at risk
If you're currently using PPIs or have taken them in the past, you may be eligible to file a claim against the drug maker if your health suffered as a result.
Our legal team will listen to the facts of your case and determine if you're eligible to recover medical costs, pain and suffering, and other damages as a result of a defective drug. Simply fill out the contact form on this page today to set up your consultation with our Florida injury attorneys.