Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a powerful class of drugs designed to relieve the symptoms of GERD, have come under scrutiny in recent years as more information about the risk of PPI side effects from their long-term use comes to light. Now a new study links PPI use to kidney failure in older patients.
About the study
Almost a quarter of cases of acute kidney injury are caused by reactions to drugs, such as antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Many patients recover kidney function when the offending medication is stopped (although some will have chronic kidney failure), so identifying the medications that can injure the kidneys is critical to treating the condition.
Since PPIs are so widely used and some anecdotal evidence shows an association between PPI use and kidney problems, researchers in Ontario sought to determine if PPI use did, in fact, increase the risk of kidney failure. The research team compared the records of 290,529 patients aged 66 and older who started PPIs with an equal number of matched controls. They found that PPI users were twice as likely to be hospitalized with kidney failure than the non-PPI users.
You can read the full text of the study here: Proton pump inhibitors and the risk of acute kidney injury in older patients: a population-based cohort study.
Considering PPI side effects before you start
While the results of the study are concerning, researchers pointed out that kidney failure is a rare complication for PPI users. Since millions of people take PPIs each year, however, it’s important to recognize that the risk does exist. They believe that the findings “underscore the importance of ongoing efforts to curtail the indiscriminate use of these drugs.”
What does this mean if you have GERD and use (or are considering) PPIs? The bottom line is that you must educate yourself – about your disease, about the role of medications in its treatment, about the potential PPI side effects, and about your full range of treatment options:
- Understand that no medication is risk-free. Even though the marketing would have you believe that heartburn medications are completely safe, their use comes with the risk of side effects. Be sure you understand PPI side effects before committing to them for the long-term. Learn more: Why RefluxMD is concerned about PPIs in the treatment of GERD?
- Know what PPIs can and can’t do. PPIs are effective symptom relievers, but they don’t stop reflux from happening, and they don’t stop GERD from progressing. Medications are an important part of GERD treatment, but they aren’t the quick fix many believe them to be. Learn more: Medications to control GERD symptoms: Pros and Cons
- Take a broader view of your health. While relief from your painful symptoms might be your most pressing concern, try to take a broader view of you long-term health. Diet and lifestyle are crucial elements of your GERD treatment plan and can help relieve your symptoms AND stop the progression of the disease. Don’t underestimate them. Learn more: Why diet matters for ALL people with GERD and consider RefluxMD’s Recipe for Relief as a healthy and safe treatment option.
- Talk to your doctor: Because PPIs are readily available over-the-counter in the US, many patients self-medicate. If you feel like you need medication every day to control your symptoms, it’s time to talk to a doctor. A GERD expert can help you get to the bottom of your symptoms and help you evaluate all of your treatment options, including whether a daily PPI is the right choice for you. Learn more: What kind of doctor should I see for my acid reflux?
Finally, understand that medications ARE the right choice for some people. Our goal is to educate you about the risks associated with these powerful drugs, so you can weigh the benefit versus risk FOR YOU and make an informed decision about their use.
For more information on PPI side effects, we recommend the Consumer Reports article on drug safety.