A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests that proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and PrevAcid may not be the safest treatment option for older people suffering from GERD and other acid-related digestive disorders.
A team of researchers from Exeter University in the U.K. designed the study to determine if there was a statistical link between proton pump inhibitor use and pneumonia among older adults. To do so, they utilized the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) for England to identify 75,000 regular proton pump inhibitor users, age 60 and older.
Their analysis suggested that older people who used proton pump inhibitors for two years faced a higher risk of pneumonia, a leading cause of death among this patient population.
“Caution is needed in interpreting the findings as our study is based on analyzing data from medical records, so other factors may be involved,” David Melzer, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Exeter Medical School, said in a statement announcing the findings. “However, our study adds to growing evidence that PPIs are not quite as safe as previously thought, although they are still a very useful class of medication for certain groups of patients.”
Proton pump inhibitors include prescription and over-the-counter versions of Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid, Protonix, and Dexilant, among others.
Data suggests that up to 40% of elderly Americans take proton pump inhibitors. However, as many as 85% of those prescribed the popular heart burn drugs may not even need them. And though they are only indicated for short term use, many people take proton pump inhibitors for far longer than what is recommended.
Though proton pump inhibitors were once thought to be harmless for the most part, recent studies have linked chronic use to a long list of serious side effects, including bone fractures, vitamin B12 deficiency, low magnesium levels, dementia, heart attacks, certain bacterial infections, and kidney failure and other renal complications.
Hundreds of plaintiffs who claim to have developed kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, and acute interstitial nephritis allegedly related to their use of Nexium and other drugs in this class are pursuing proton pump inhibitor lawsuits in state and federal courts throughout the country. Among other things, these plaintiffs claim that the drugs’ manufacturers have long concealed evidence suggesting that proton pump inhibitors could harm the kidneys and failed to provide the public with adequate notice of these risks. Plaintiffs further assert that they could have avoided their kidney injuries and complications had defendants provided the public with adequate safety warnings.
The majority of proton pump inhibitor lawsuits have been centralized in a federal multidistrict litigation now underway in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. Additional claims are moving forward in various state courts, including Delaware, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Louisiana.