After Kidney Transplant, Prilosec Lawsuit Plaintiff Hopes Litigation Leads to Better Warnings

Published on May 12, 2017 by Laurie Villanueva

A Northern California woman who required a kidney transplant following years of Prilosec treatment claims that she was never properly warned about its possible renal side effects. Now she’s hoping that the litigation surrounding it and other proton pump inhibitors will push drug manufacturers to provide doctors and patients with adequate notice regarding the risks allegedly associated with these popular heartburn medications.

“I think if I had any indication that it would have done damage to any of my organs, I would have done it – go off or tried to go off,” the woman, identified only as “Penny”, recently told ABC 10 in Sacramento.

Penny was prescribed Prilosec to treat acid reflux. It worked so well, she remained on the drug for more than a decade. A recent eye infection, however, prompted her doctor to order a urinalysis that revealed Penny’s kidney function had been reduced to 30%.  In 2015, she was forced to undergo a kidney transplant.

In February, Penny joined a growing number of plaintiffs pursuing legal action against the manufacturers of Prilosec and other proton pump inhibitors for kidney failure, chronic kidney disease and other life-threatening renal complications. According to ABC 10, she doesn’t believe the drug companies will change their warning labels unless they’re sued.

Proton Pump Inhibitors and the Kidneys

Proton pump inhibitors have been on the market for more than 30 years, and are now available in both prescription and over-the-counter versions. In addition to prescription Prilosec and Prilosec OTC, other drugs in this class include:

  • Nexium/Nexium 24 HR
  • PrevAcid/PrevAcid 24 HR
  • Dexilent, Kapidex
  • Aciphex
  • Protonix

In 2014, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) required the manufacturers of prescription proton pump inhibitors to modify their product labels to note their potential with acute interstitial nephritis. This serious disorder is characterized by swelling in between the kidney tubules, and is often the result of a sensitivity reaction to a medication. Untreated, the acute interstitial nephritis can progress to kidney disease and kidney failure.

In April 2015, a study published in CMAJ Open linked proton pump inhibitors to a 3-fold increase in the risk for acute interstitial nephritis, as well as a 2.5 times higher risk of acute kidney injury.

Just last year, two additional studies raised new concerns about the potential for proton pump inhibitors to harm the kidneys. The first was published in the January 2016 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine , and indicated that long-term use might increase the likelihood of chronic kidney disease by as much as 50%.  The following April, a study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology linked the drugs to a 96% increase in the risk for kidney failure, as well as a 28% heightened risk of chronic kidney disease compared to another class of heart burn medications called H2 blockers.

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