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Acid Reflux Medications May be Overprescribed

By: Anapol Weiss

An estimated 15 million Americans use prescription and over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid. However, mounting research has associated these drugs with a number of adverse effects and suggests that the drugs may be overprescribed.

PPIs are used to treat and prevent gastric acid-related conditions. The drugs prevent acid production in the stomach by blocking the acid-producing enzyme system in the stomach wall. Lack of stomach acid prevents new ulcers from forming, and existing ulcers can heal.

PPIs are FDA-approved to treat and maintain the following conditions in adults, according to a 2013 list by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Erosive esophagitis
  • Duodenal ulcers
  • Pathological hypersecretory conditions including Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
  • Risk reduction for gastric ulcer associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Eradication of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) to reduce the risk of duodenal ulcer recurrence, in combination with antibiotics

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has indicated that in contrast to the prescription versions, over-the-counter PPIs come in lower doses and are only intended for a 14-day treatment up to three times per year. A 2008 article published in the British Medical Journal cited numerous studies that show PPIs are overprescribed worldwide in both primary and secondary care.

Prevacid, Prilosec and Other PPIs Linked to Chronic Kidney Disease

A recent study involving more than 250,000 people has associated PPI use with an increased risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD), which involves the gradual loss of kidney function. CKD can progress to end-stage renal failure (ESRD), which is fatal unless a patient undergoes dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Patients diagnosed with CKD may have made a different choice about their treatment of gastric conditions had they known PPIs could potentially cause irreversible kidney damage. If it happened to you or a loved one, we can answer your legal questions. Contact our firm for assistance. You can also learn more about PPIs here.

This information is not intended to replace medical advice given by a physician. Patients should always speak with their health care provider before making decisions about their health.