A new study suggests that extended use of proton pump inhibitors may cause damage to blood vessels. The findings, which were published this month in Circulation Research, could explain the link between drugs like Nexium and a possible increased risk of kidney failure and chronic kidney disease.
For this research, scientists at the Houston Methodist Research Institute (HMRI) conducted lab tests with Nexium and another proton pump inhibitor that is not currently commercially available. The tests suggested that long-term use of proton pump inhibitors “accelerated biological aging in human endothelial cells which line the inside of blood vessels.” The medications also appeared to impair acid production by the lysosomes in the cells lining the blood vessel walls.
According to the study authors, healthy endothelial cells create a Teflon-like coating that prevents blood from sticking. “When older and diseased, the endothelium becomes more like Velcro, with blood elements sticking to the vessel to form blockages,” they wrote.
Lysosomes are responsible for clearing waste products from cells lining the blood vessel wall. But exposure to proton pump inhibitors appeared to prevent the lysosomes from producing the acid needed to do so. The ensuing build-up of waste caused the cells to age rapidly. Another type of heartburn drug called an h2 blocker did not have the same effect.
“With the knowledge that PPIs are being used by millions of people for indications and durations that were never tested or approved, it may be time for the pharmaceutical industry and regulatory agencies to re-visit the specificity and the safety of these agents,” the study’s lead author said in a statement announcing the findings. “Unless otherwise indicated, physicians should consider PPIs only for short-term use for relief of symptoms of GERD, since we now have a ‘smoking gun’ that helps explain the consistent observational evidence of increased risk.”
The authors of the report noted that 1 in 14 American has used Nexium or another proton pump inhibitor. They are meant for short-term use. But because several brands are available over-the-counter, the risk of overuse is significant. Recent studies have linked the drugs to an increased risk of kidney complications, dementia and heart disease. Other side effects associated with their use include certain types of fractures, B12 deficiency, low magnesium, and C. diff infections.
Bernstein Liebhard LLP is now evaluating potential Nexium lawsuits and other claims on behalf of patients who may have developed renal failure and other serious kidney complications due to proton pump inhibitors. To learn more, please contact our office at (888) 994-8177.