The routine use of Nexium and other proton pump inhibitors has come under fire recently, following the publication of studies linking these drugs to kidney failure and other serious side effects. However, a new report published today by The New York Times suggests that diet, exercises and other lifestyle changes could provide a drug-free alternative to managing the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
GERD involves the backwards flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Symptoms of the condition include heartburn, burping or hiccups, bloating, difficulty swallowing, a sensation of a lump in the throat, and more. If not addressed, chronic exposure to gastric acid can damage the esophagus and even cause esophageal cancer. Every year, 15 million Americans turn to proton pump inhibitors like Nexium, Prilosec and PrevAcid, to treat GERD. However, a growing body of research has suggested that the long-term use of these medications may increase a patient’s risk for serious kidney complications, certain nutritional deficiencies, dementia, heart attacks and bone fractures.
Dr. Jonathan Aviv, an ear, nose and throat specialist affiliated with Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York and author of “The Acid Watcher,” told The New York Times that GERD can often be alleviated with lifestyle changes. Weight loss is one of the most effective measures victims can take. Quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and avoiding carbonated drinks can also reduce symptoms, while eating big meals, lying down before a meal is digested, and exercising too soon after eating can exacerbate GERD.
When proton pump inhibitors are needed, they should be taken at the lowest dose and for the shortest period of time possible.
“Studies have revealed that 80 percent of Americans may be taking these powerful meds incorrectly,” Dr. Aviv told the Times.
Over the past year, a growing number of proton pump inhibitor lawsuits have been filed in U.S. courts on behalf of patients who suffered kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, and other serious renal complications allegedly related to treatment with the medications. Plaintiffs claim that the manufacturers of Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid and other drugs in this class have long been aware of reports linking their products to serious kidney complications, yet continued to represent that the medications were safe and took no action to warn patients and doctors of these risks.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) declined to centralize federally-filed proton pump inhibitor lawsuits involving kidney complications in a single U.S. District Court for coordinated pretrial proceedings. However, cases continue to move forward, even as new proton pump inhibitor lawsuits are filed. At some point in the future, the JPML may be asked to consider another petition for centralization.