Proton Pump Inhibitor Side Effects

Serious Side Effects Linked to Widely Used OTC Medications

Researchers at Stanford University and Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas recently discovered that PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) not only turn off acid pumps in the stomach, but in all of the body’s lysosomes as well, which hinders the body’s ability to rid itself of damaged protein waste. The toxic buildup taxes important organs from kidneys and the pancreas, to the heart and liver. We also need stomach acid to absorb vitamins and minerals, and to kill the harmful bacteria we swallow. The end result is a bunch of undesirable side effects – some quite serious and even life threatening.

PPI side effects

Some of the reported PPI side effects affecting up to 15% of all patients – notably nausea, headaches, dry mouth, diarrhea, regurgitation, abdominal pain and fatigue – were likely present prior to the use of the medication as symptoms of the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder or heartburn the patients were treating.

Patients, particularly those on higher doses, have experienced common side effects such as: taste disturbances, severe diarrhea, vomiting, severe skin itching, dermatitis rash, increased liver enzymes, and back pain. Sometimes the side effects were so disturbing, users were forced to discontinue treatment.

Proton pump inhibitor warnings

Proton pump inhibitors like Prevacid, Nexium and Prilosec contain warnings for several known risks, including:

  • Fractures of the wrist, hip and spine
  • C. difficile infections, with symptoms of chronic diarrhea, pneumonia, low magnesium, and muscle spasms
  • Heart palpitations and convulsions

Some of the newer health risks are not included on the label – such as heart attacks, cancer, or kidney disease.

Risks linked to proton pump inhibitors

Other rare, but serious side effects of proton pump inhibitors (affecting less than 0.1% of users) have included: candidiasis of the esophagus, sometimes fatal pancreatitis, microscopic colitis, speech disorders, hepatitis, bone fractures, leg cramping, muscle weakness, anemia, edema, nephritis resulting in renal failure, gynecomastia, anaphylactic shock, tremors, and abdominal swelling.

New studies suggest that serious proton pump inhibitor side effects may include:

  • Heart attacks:  The Houston Methodist Research Institute found that PPI users were 16-21 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than people with chronic acid reflux who were not taking these medications.
  • Esophageal cancer: Research out of the Esophageal and Lung Institute suggests regular PPI users may face a 61 percent increased risk of developing esophageal cancer compared to non-users.
  • Chronic kidney disease: Johns Hopkins researchers found that daily PPI users face up to a 50 percent increased risk of developing kidney disease.

Kidney damage caused by proton pump inhibitors

Research published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology stated that 15 percent of PPI users were diagnosed with chronic kidney disease five years later, versus 11 percent of H2 blocker users. After weighing for various factors, the scientists found that PPI users had a 28 percent greater risk overall. While only 0.2 percent of all study patients developed end-stage kidney failure, the odds were almost doubled for PPI users. Patients taking PPIs for 1-2 years had a three-fold higher risk of kidney failure than those who used the drugs for a month or less.

Are proton pump inhibitors dangerous drugs?

Cleveland Clinic Gastroenterologist Scott Gabbard, MD, said many of his patients fear PPIs, but they need to keep in mind that the research associating proton pump inhibitors with serious, long-term health problems show that trends are traveling in the same general direction, but are not necessarily causative. For instance, a study of 250,000 people showed that taking a PPI increased a person’s risk of kidney disease by 50%, but over 10 years, the people who took a PPI had a 12% risk of developing chronic kidney disease compared to 8.5% of people who didn’t take the drug – a difference of just 3%. Similarly, the absolute risk of developing dementia was 13% after 7 years for PPI users, compared to 8% for people who did not take these drugs.

Researcher John Cooke, MD of the Houston Methodist Research Institute states that it is crucial for patients to only use PPIs when they have a medical reason to do so. One study of long-term care facilities found that 65% of people taking PPIs did so without a diagnosis from a doctor.

Manufacturers say patients should only use the drug for 4 to 8 weeks, but many patients are guilty of long term PPI use. Long-term PPI users may suffer from a condition known as PPI rebound, where cessation causes an overabundance of stomach acid and a worsening of symptoms that make stopping the drug difficult. Sometimes lifestyle changes like losing 10-15% body weight, quitting smoking, avoiding acid-increasing foods, propping one’s head up, and avoiding laying down right after eating can be just as effective at relieving acid reflux.

As the facts come to light about proton pump inhibitors and their side effects, Bonsignore Trial Attorneys are currently evaluating potential PPI lawsuits for those who have suffered serious side effects after long term use of these popular medications. While all medications have certain risks associated with them, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to design a product that is free from defects, conduct all necessary safety testing, and warn users of known risks.

Call today to speak with an attorney.

Additional PPI side effect resources