Common heartburn medications may harm kidney health

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Millions of people around the world rely on medications known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) to help manage discomforting conditions like frequent heartburn, acid reflux, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Popular brands include Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid. In the United States alone, about 10% of adults use these drugs to find relief from these digestive issues.

However, a study by scientists at the University of California San Diego has raised concerns about the potential impact of PPIs on kidney health.

By examining data from over 10 million patient records in the FAERS database, which collects voluntary reports of adverse effects from medications, the researchers focused their analysis on approximately 43,000 patients who were exclusively taking PPIs.

For comparison, they also looked at a control group of about 8,000 patients who were taking histamine-2 receptor blockers, such as Zantac or Pepcid, which are another type of medication for similar conditions but without the use of other drugs.

The findings were concerning. Patients who were only on PPIs reported kidney-related issues at a rate of 5.6%, a stark contrast to the 0.7% reported by those on histamine-2 receptor antagonists.

Specifically, the study found that compared to the control group, individuals taking only PPIs were significantly more likely to experience various forms of kidney damage.

The rates were alarmingly higher: 28.4 times more likely to report chronic kidney disease, 4.2 times more likely to have acute kidney injury, 35.5 times more likely to end up with end-stage renal disease, and 8 times more likely to suffer from unspecified kidney impairment.

Moreover, PPI users were found to be at a higher risk of experiencing electrolyte imbalances, a side effect that varied across different PPI brands, whereas the kidney-specific adverse effects were consistent across all five PPIs examined in the study.

This research sheds light on a crucial issue. While PPIs are considered essential by the World Health Organization for many individuals dealing with painful and disruptive symptoms, the potential for increased risk of kidney disease cannot be overlooked.

The researchers aim to use these findings to urge healthcare providers to offer proper warnings, education, and monitoring for patients who need PPIs, especially those who are already at a higher risk for kidney disease.

This study builds on previous concerns about PPIs, referencing a 2017 study from the same university that found links between PPI use and chronic liver disease in both mice and humans.

Together, these findings underscore the importance of considering the long-term implications of PPI use and the need for patients and healthcare providers to weigh the benefits against the risks, particularly when it comes to kidney health.

With kidney health being a critical aspect of overall well-being, these findings emphasize the need for caution and informed decision-making when it comes to managing digestive health issues.

The study, published in Scientific Reports by Ruben Abagyan and colleagues, highlights the necessity for ongoing research and awareness to ensure the safety and health of patients worldwide.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about how to protect your kidneys from diabetes, and drinking coffee could help reduce risk of kidney injury.

For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about foods that may prevent recurrence of kidney stones, and eating nuts linked to lower risk of chronic kidney disease and death.

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