A new study suggests that women with GERD would enjoy the same benefits from proton pump inhibitors even when prescribed lower doses of the drugs. Such an approach could reduce the risk of side effects that may occur when higher doses are used.
Proton pump Inhibitors includes prescription medications like Nexium, Prilosec and others. For this study, researchers writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology worked with around 100 patients, roughly half male and half female. All had been diagnosed with erosive esophagitis, and all had been undergoing long-term therapy with proton pump inhibitors.
For purposes of the study, the research team had about half of the participants reduce their proton pump inhibitor dose by 50% for eight weeks. The remainder continued on the normal dose. At the end of eight weeks, the study authors measured levels of gastrin, the hormone that stimulates the release of stomach acid, in all of the subjects.
Overall, women had higher gastrin levels than their male counterparts. They were also three times more likely to tolerate the lower dosage compared to men.
Both prescription and over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors have become extremely popular since the medications first came to market in the late 1980s. They currently rank among the most frequently used medications, and are taken by millions of people to control gastric issues related to the overproduction of stomach acid. However, some studies suggest that overuse of the medications could be associated with some very serious side effects, including an increased risk of kidney complications.
In January, for example, a study involving more than 10,000 subjects was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, and suggested that those taking a proton pump inhibitor had a 20-50% increased risk of chronic kidney disease compared to those who never took the drugs. The highest risk was seen among those who took twice-daily doses.
In April, researchers writing in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology reported that long-term users of proton pump inhibitors may be 96% more likely to develop kidney failure and 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease compared to patients using another class of heartburn drugs called H2-blockers. The findings also suggested that risk increased the longer the medications were taken.
In recent months, a number of proton pump inhibitor lawsuits have been filed on behalf of patients who suffered serious kidney problems allegedly related to the use of Nexium and other drugs in this class. The lawsuits claim that the manufacturers of proton pump inhibitors concealed these risks and failed to provide appropriate warnings to doctors and patients.