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Proton Pump Inhibitors- Be Careful of Larry the Cable Guy

Posted on February 27, 2017

You might want to think twice before taking medical advice from Larry the Cable Guy.

Larry tells you to take “One pill every morning” of Prilosec OTC (over-the-counter) medication to treat your frequent heartburn by decreasing the amount of acid in the stomach. Go ahead and eat that greasy plate of ribs.   

We are looking at new cases of kidney injury among Americans who take Prilosec and its next generation of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), Nexium, the little purple pill, both blockbuster drugs for global drug company AstraZeneca.

The kidneys are a pair of organs located in the back of the abdomen. Their job is to filter the blood.  PPIs may damage the kidneys by causing magnesium levels to drop. The use of PPIs may also cause acute kidney inflammation.

Prilosec still doesn’t have a warning about AIN (Acute Interstitial Nephritis), a drug-related kidney disease that can lead to organ failure. Nexium’s label does not have any specific warnings about these side effects even though the first report of Prilosec-induced AIN was published in 1992.

A published study in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Internal Medicine in February 2016 found using PPIs is associated with a 20-50% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease, than among nonusers.

The drugs are actually intended for limited use up to 14 days, three times a year, so Larry has it all wrong with his “Pill a Day” prescription.  Still the ads continue.

To make matters worse, AIN can be asymptomatic and permanent leading to acute kidney failure or kidney injury. Stage 5 is the complete loss of kidney function leading to kidney dialysis and/or a kidney transplant.

Anyone taking these drugs long-term who suspects kidney damage might want to consider a series of blood tests which include BUN testing to measure blood nitrogen, used to diagnose kidney function. 

Doctors can measure the amount of blood creatinine, a waste product, to test the kidney function. Calcium tests screen for kidney disease as does a blood phosphorous test. 

Patients with kidney failure may have severe anemia from a lack of red blood cells.

AIN should be diagnosed early to avoid permanent kidney damage.

Besides kidney damage, plaintiffs have named AstraZeneca’s PPIs in defective product lawsuits accusing the company of failing to warn about an increased risk of bone fracture, heart attack, stroke and dementia.

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation held a hearing late January 2017 to consider whether the growing number of PPI cases should be consolidated into one federal court for pretrial proceedings.