As proton pump inhibitor lawsuits continue to mount in U.S. Courts, a new study out of Australia suggests that drugs like Nexium, Prilosec, and PrevAcid are overused worldwide, prompting its authors to recommend that the popular heartburn drugs be the focus of deprescribing programs.
The study was published online September 11th in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics. The authors’ analysis of the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) databases indicated that proton pump inhibitor use increased in Australia from 2002 to 2010, followed by a gradual decrease.
A review of the international literature revealed a wide variation (11 to 84%) in estimates of inappropriate proton pump inhibitor use. There appeared to be little change in the extent of appropriate proton pump inhibitor use reported through 34 international studies from 2000 to 2016.
The authors of the study noted that the inappropriate use of proton pump inhibitors exposes patients to a risk of adverse side effects.
“Proton pump inhibitors continue to be overused worldwide and should be a focus for deprescribing programmes,” the study concludes. “Ongoing education and awareness campaigns for health professionals and patients, including electronic reminders at the point of prescribing, are strategies that have potential to reduce PPI use in individuals who do not have an evidence-based clinical indication for their long-term use.”
In 2013, more than 15 million Americans used prescription proton pump inhibitors to treat GERD and other problems associated with the excess production of stomach acid. However, according to research published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine, 70% of these prescriptions are inappropriate. The same study found that a quarter of all long-term users could stop taking the medications without an increase or recurrence of their heartburn symptoms.
An increasing number of studies have also suggested that long-term proton pump inhibitor treatment may harm the kidneys, leading to kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, and acute interstitial nephritis.
More than 400 product liability lawsuits have been centralized in a multidistrict litigation currently underway in New Jersey federal court, all of which were filed on behalf of individuals who developed kidney failure and other kidney side effects allegedly related to proton pump inhibitors. Plaintiffs claim that the manufacturers of Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid, Dexilant, and Protonix have long concealed evidence linking their products to serious kidney complications and failed to provide doctors and patients with appropriate safety warnings.
They further assert that they could have avoided kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, and other renal problems had they received adequate notice of these risks.