Proton pump inhibitors are a class of heartburn medications that include the prescription drugs Nexium, Prilosec, and PrevAcid, as well as various over-the-counter brands and generics. Those sold via prescription are approved to treat symptoms associated with GERD, ulcers and other disorders related to the overproduction of stomach acid. Over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors are recommended for people who suffer from frequent heartburn (defined as two or more times per week).
At least 15 million Americans used proton pump inhibitors in 2013. However, research suggests that the drugs are often overused, and that many patients take the medications for far too long. While proton pump inhibitors are generally safe in the short-term, long-term use has been linked to number of serious side effects, including C. diff infections, certain bone fractures, low magnesium levels and B12 deficiency. Research also suggests that extended use may increase a patient’s risk for dementia, heart attacks, chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, and kidney failure.
Kidney failure is the final stage of chronic kidney disease. Also known as end stage renal disease, the condition occurs when the kidneys no longer function in a way that would allow a patient to survive, resulting in the need for dialysis or kidney transplantation.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney failure. Other causes include:
Recent studies also suggest that proton pump inhibitors may harm the kidneys. In April 2015, for example, a study authored by Canadian researchers found that older people who used the drugs were more likely to suffer acute kidney injury, a form of sudden renal failure. A year later, a paper appearing in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology linked extended use of proton pump inhibitors to a 96% increased risk of renal failure compared to alternative medications.
Chronic kidney disease and kidney failure share the same causes, including diabetes and high blood pressure. A history of pre-existing kidney problems has been tied to an increased risk of kidney disease, as has the long-term use of certain medications, including NSAIDs and certain antibiotics.
In January 2016, research that appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that proton pump inhibitors might increase the risk of chronic kidney disease by as much as 50%. The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology study also suggested that proton pump inhibitor use was associated with a 28% increase in the risk for chronic kidney disease when compared to another class of heartburn drugs.
Acute interstitial nephritis is a sudden inflammation of the kidney tubules that is often caused bya hypersenativiy reaction to a medication. Symptoms of the condition include:
When acute interstitial nephritis is caused bya drug, it is important that treatment with the medication cease. If not recognized in a timely manner, the condition may progress to chronic kidney disease and renal failure.
In 2014, the U.S. Food& Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the manufacturers of all prescription proton pump inhibitors to add information about acute interstitial nephritis to their product labels.
No recalls have been issued for Nexium, Prilosec or PrevAcid due to kidney-related complications. However, the absence of a recall does not in any way prevent the alleged victims of these side effects from pursuing legal action. In fact, lawsuits involving these drugs began to mount in U.S. courts in 2016, shortly after several studies were published that suggested people who use the medications might be more likely to experience kidney failure, chronic kidney disease and other serious kidney injuries.
Individual kidney damage lawsuits, rather than class action complaints, make up the majority of the proton pump inhibitor litigation. An individual lawsuit offers plaintiffs a number of advantages over a class action, which may eventually involve thousands of claimants. In the case of a class action, the lead plaintiff will have complete control over many important aspects of the case, including the choice of attorney, and whether or not to accept any proposed settlement on behalf of the class members. The proceeds from any settlement or judgment are usually evenly divided among the participants, regardless of varying injuries. However, the lead plaintiff will receive a larger share to compensate that individual for their participation in the case.
An individual lawsuit allows each plaintiff to make all important decisions in their case. Any compensation awarded to the plaintiff is also more likely to reflect the circumstances and severity of their particular injury.
The parties involved in the proton pump inhibitor litigation have not yet announced any settlements in kidney-related cases. The first such lawsuits were only filed in 2016, and it could be at least a couple of years before any of these cases are resolved. However, it is important to retain legal counsel as soon as possible if you are thinking about filing a claim of your own in order to assure that your rights to any recovery are preserved.
Bernstein Liebhard LLP offers free legal reviews to individuals who may have suffered chronic kidney disease, kidney failure, or other renal complications allegedly associated with Nexium, Prilosec or PrevAcid. To learn more, please call .