Lawsuit Update: Proton Pump Inhibitor Heartburn Meds, Kidney Damage

Kidney Disease and PPIs

A growing number of Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of PPI medications. Plaintiffs allege that as a result of taking a PPI for gastric acid-related conditions, they have been diagnosed with kidney injuries including Acute Interstitial Nephritis (AIN), chronic kidney disease and renal failure.

Claims allege that the manufacturers withheld information from consumers and physicians about the risk of these diseases and other serious health complications.

No MDL for PPI Lawsuits

Last October, plaintiffs asked to consolidate PPI cases into a multi-district litigation (MDL) centralizing all federal proton pump inhibitor lawsuits before one judge. The U.S. JPML denied this request on February 12, 2017.

While MDLs typically help to improve the efficiency of the process and eliminate duplicative discovery, in this case, the JPML indicated that there are currently too few cases pending nationwide and too many competing drug manufacturers involved to require coordinated pretrial proceedings.

They are “not identical” and each has a “unique development, testing, and marketing history, and each was approved by the FDA at different times.”

In Re: Proton Pump Inhibitor Products Liability Litigation MDL No. 2757

The Issue with Proton Pump Inhibitor Heartburn Medications

PPIs, prescribed for the treatment of heartburn, acid reflux and other gastrointestinal issues, lower the amount of acid produced by the stomach; however, this type of medication affects the body’s ability to absorb some nutrients, such as magnesium. Kidneys need magnesium to function properly.

People on PPIs for one to two years had a threefold higher risk of kidney failure than those who used the drugs for a month or less. Over time, chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure.

In December 2014, the FDA began requiring warnings indicating that there may be a risk of Acute Interstitial Nephritis (AIN) with proton pump inhibitors, a popular class of heartburn and acid reflux medications that includes the well-known brands Nexium, Priloesc and Previcid.

Some plaintiffs claim this warning did not go far enough to raise awareness. Lawsuits filed allege that information was withheld about the risk of chronic kidney disease, kidney failure and other serious health complications.

Research Links to Increased Risk of Kidney Damage

A study in 1992 first linked PPI use to AIN; later studies linked PPI use with an increased risk of Acute Kidney Injury and Chronic Kidney disease.

In April 2015, a study published in CMAJ Open “found that those who commenced treatment with PPIs had a more than twofold increase in the short-term risk for hospital admission with acute kidney injury relative to patients who were not prescribed these drugs.”

Another study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reported a significant increased risk to patients taking these types of drugs for developing acute kidney failure and chronic kidney disease.

CBS News published findings from a recent study in the journal Kidney International. The study linked long-term use of PPIs with a higher risk of Chronic Kidney Disease and Acute Kidney Injury than use of H2 blockers such as Zantac or Pepcid.

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