Could More Than 15 Million Americans Be at Risk of Heart Attacks and Kidney Failure From Their Medications?

Medicines used to combat heartburn and acid reflux may cause kidney and heart diseaseAlmost 15 million people in the United States have prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors, and many more people take these drugs without a prescription. Commonly used proton pump inhibitors include Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid. These drugs may useful in treating conditions such as:

  • Acid reflux.
  • Gastroesophageal reflex disease (GERD).
  • Heartburn.
  • Ulcers.

But proton pump inhibitors also have risks—and your doctor may not have warned you about these serious dangers to your health.

The Risk of Kidney Failure

The latest study linking popular proton pump inhibitor medications to kidney failure was published on April 14, 2016 ,in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The study’s authors looked at data on more than 175,000 people from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs over a five-year period. The data included 173,321 people who took proton pump inhibitors and 20,270 who took histamine H2 receptor blockers to treat acid reflux, GERD, heartburn and ulcers. Common histamine H2 receptor blockers include Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantec.

The researchers found that people using proton pump inhibitors had a higher risk of kidney failure than the people taking histamine H2 receptor blockers. Specifically, the researchers found that when compared to the patients taking histamine H2 receptor blockers, the patients using proton pump inhibitors has…

  • A 96% increased risk of developing kidney failure.
  • A 28% increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

While this was the result of the latest study, it is not the only study to find a connection between kidney failure and the use of proton pump inhibitors. In January 2016, a study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine that found that proton pump inhibitors were linked to chronic kidney disease. Other studies have linked proton pump inhibitors to acute interstitial nephritis—a kidney disease that can end in kidney failure.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

By the time you experience acute kidney failure, the symptoms may be significant and could include:

  • Less urine than you typically produce.
  • Swelling of your legs or feet because of fluid retention.
  • Drowsiness or fatigue.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Pain or pressure in your chest.

In some cases you may experience seizures or fall into a coma. However, it is also important to know that acute kidney failure may occur without any symptoms or signs.

The Danger of Kidney Failure

Regardless of the symptoms you experience, kidney failure can be dangerous and life-threatening. When kidney failure occurs your kidneys are no longer able to filter the waste from your body. Instead, the waste products may accumulate in your body. Sometimes treatment—which may include medications and dialysis—is successful and kidney failure can be reversed. However, permanent kidney damage and death are real risks that may result from kidney failure.

The Risk of Heart Attack

In 2015, a study funded by the United States National Institutes of Health found that people with acid reflux disease who use proton pump inhibitors for a long period of time may have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack as compared to people with the same medical condition who did not use proton pump inhibitors. Researchers studied the medical records of approximately 300,000 adults in the United States who have acid reflux and they found that the patients who used proton pump inhibitors had a higher risk of suffering a heart attack than the patients who took histamine H2 receptor blockers or managed their conditions in other ways. Specifically, patients who used proton pump inhibitors were estimated to be 16 to 21 percent  more likely to suffer a heart attack than other patients with acid reflux disease.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Heart attack symptoms are usually easily identifiable—in movies and on television. On screen, a person often clutches his chest and falls to the floor. While this could happen to you during a heart attack, the symptoms of a heart attack may be more subtle in real life. Symptoms of a heart attack could include:

  • Discomfort, pressure, squeezing, or pain in the chest. This feeling may come and go.
  • Pain or discomfort anywhere in the upper body including the arms, back, neck, and jaw. This may occur with or without chest pain.
  • Pain or discomfort in the stomach. This could feel like heartburn.
  • Sweating, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Anxiety.

Any of these symptoms should be considered a medical emergency and you should call 911 or get to the nearest hospital as soon as possible if you think you may be having a heart attack.

The Danger of a Heart Attack

Some people survive heart attacks and have varying degrees of recovery. It is important to remember, however, that heart attacks are often fatal and people who survive may have a weakened heart muscle. Your recovery may depend on things such as your overall health, how severe your heart attack was, and how quickly you got medical attention.

What to Do If You’ve Been Hurt by a Proton Pump Inhibitor

Some researchers are suggesting that proton pump inhibitors are overused in the United States. Whether a proton pump inhibitor is right for you is a discussion that you should have with your doctor after weighing the potential benefits and risks of the medication.

However, if you have suffered kidney failure or a heart attack because of your proton pump inhibitor or your loved one has died from one of these conditions while taking a proton pump inhibitor then you should know more about your legal rights and about what you can do to protect your potential recovery.

The experienced lawyers of Gray & White Law are currently investigating proton pump inhibitor, Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid lawsuits. If you have suffered a heart attack or kidney failure—of if your loved one died from one of these conditions while taking a proton pump inhibitor—then we encourage you to contact us now for a free consultation. You can reach us via this website or at 888-450-4456. Our legal team is available for you 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law