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PPIs and the Risk of Kidney Damage

PPIs and the Risk of Kidney Damage

When OJ Simpson was sent to jail in 2008 for robbery and kidnapping (not murder), it was for 33 years. Lots of people though that long-term verdict was a long-time-coming. Similarly, in medical research, two recent long-term studies of a medication for acid reflux were a long-time-coming -- and their verdict could change your life.

Since the 1990s proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been a favored treatment for GERD and even simple acid reflux. They suppress stomach acid up to three days per dose and were thought to have minimal side effects. But two recent studies may change some treatment standards.

The first study, from Johns Hopkins, tracked 10,482 adults with normal kidney function for 15 years. It found that PPI users were 20 to 50 percent more likely to develop chronic kidney disease (CKD) than non-PPI users. The second study out of SUNY Buffalo tracked over 240,000 patients for 17 years and had similar results. Both studies also reported that people who used H2 blockers (another medication that blocks acid reflux, but only lasts 12 hours per dose) didn’t increase the risk for CKD. Cases of CKD are on the rise (increasing red meat consumption is also a trigger), affecting round 31 million Americans.

If properly prescribed for GERD, taking PPIs might be worth the reduced risk of esophageal cancer. But, warns the lead author of the SUNY study, two-thirds of the time they’re not prescribed appropriately! So, don’t dose yourself with OTC PPIs. Talk with your doc about how to quell your stomach fires.

Medically reviewed in June 2019.

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