Nexium, Other PPI Heartburn Drugs Might Up Risk for Chronic Kidney Disease

Published on January 29, 2016 by Sandy Liebhard

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Individuals who use a popular class of heartburn drug that includes Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid could be in danger of developing chronic kidney disease, according to a new study out of Johns Hopkins University. The findings were published online earlier this month by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Nexium and other proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have already been linked to short-term kidney problems such as acute interstitial nephritis. Chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidneys lose their ability to filter blood effectively. Over time, the condition can lead to kidney failure, the need for dialysis and even kidney transplant.

To explore the potential association between the use of PPIs and chronic kidney disease, the authors of this new study looked at data involving 10,482 participants enrolled the Artherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study and 248,751 patients in Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Health System. The research team was able to determine that 322 of the ARIC patients had taken PPIs, while 16,900 of the Geisinger patients had used the drugs.

Among the ARIC study subject, the researchers reported that 10-year estimated absolute risk for chronic kidney disease was 11.8%. The expected risk would have been 8.5%. Similar results were seen among the Geisinger patients, were the expected risk was 11.9%. In realty, 15.6% developed the condition.

According to the authors of the report, patients using PPIs might face a 20% to 50% higher risk of chronic kidney disease compared with nonusers. They also found that patients using the drugs twice a day had a 46% increase in risk compared to a 15% increase among those taking a single daily dose. Finally, patients who treated their heart burn with PPIs were 39% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease compared to those who found relieve via H2 blockers like Zantac.

What Happens Now?

It’s important to note that this study does not prove that Nexium and other PPIs actually cause kidney disease. More research will be needed to answer that question.

According to, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) can take a number of actions when new side effects are linked to a prescription medication. For example, if research eventually establishes a firm link between PPIs and chronic kidney disease, the agency could order the drugs’ manufacturers to make label modifications that would caution doctors and patients about this risk.

In 2011, the FDA took similar action when it determined that long-term use of prescription PPIs could result in low serum magnesium level. Because this condition can cause seizures, irregular heart beat, and muscle spasms, the FDA ordered the drugs’ manufacturers to add new information about this risk to the WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS sections of the labels for all the prescription PPIs.

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