A new study suggests that heartburn drugs, including Nexium and other proton pump inhibitors, have been used to treat a quarter of hospitalized newborns, despite their well-known risks. The findings are surprising, as there is little evidence to suggest that acid suppressing medications actually benefit babies admitted to the NICU.
The research, which was published April 27th in The Journal of Pediatrics, drew data from 43 U.S. children’s hospitals from 2006 to 2013. The analysis revealed that nearly 24% of roughly 122,000 newborns received a heartburn medication. Of those, 19% were treated with an h2 blocker like Zantac, and 10.5% received a proton pump inhibitor. The infants most likely to be prescribed the drugs included those who suffered from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), congenital heart disease, and ear, nose and throat conditions.
“The number is surprising, because there are now multiple studies that say these drugs are associated with harmful effects,” Dr. Jonathan Slaughter, a neonatologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio , and the study’s lead author, told HealthDay News.
Previous studies have linked the use of heartburn medications in high-risk newborns to infections, necrotizing enterocolitis, and an increased risk of death.
On the positive side, the analysis did suggest that the percentage of babies treated with heartburn medications is currently on the decline.
“But I think the numbers should be declining faster, and the research community should continue to devote resources to study the drugs’ effectiveness and safety,” Slaughter said.
Proton Pump Inhibitors, a class of drugs that includes both prescription and over-the-counter versions of Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid, are used to treat millions of Americans suffering from GERD and other acid-related conditions. But despite their popularity, these medications are associated with some potentially serious side effects, including B12 deficiency, low magnesium, and an acute kidney injury called interstitial nephritis.
Recent research has also suggested that proton pump inhibitors like Nexium could cause even more serious harm to the kidneys. Just last month, the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology reported that long-term users of proton pump inhibitors might be 96% more likely to develop renal failure compared to those who used H2 blockers, and 28% more likely to be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. In January, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested proton pump inhibitors that may increase the kidney disease risk by as much as 50%.
Bernstein Liebhard LLP is now offering free legal reviews to individuals who were diagnosed with kidney failure, nephritis, or chronic kidney disease while using Nexium or another proton pump inhibitor. To learn more, please call (888) 994-8177.