Popular heartburn meds may cause serious health problems in people with cirrhosis, new study finds

Aug. 31, 2016 – San Diego, CA People with cirrhosis should be cautious about taking their heartburn medications, a new study out this month suggests.

The Danish study, published in the August 2016 edition of the journal Hepatology, looked at how the heartburn medications Proton Pump Inhibitors, or PPIs, may be associated with an increased risk of two serious health complications in people with cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is chronic liver damage that leads to scarring and possibly liver failure. It is most often caused by Hepatitis or chronic alcohol consumption.

Researchers involved in the study examined the association between PPIs and two complications of cirrhosis known as hepatic encephalopathy (HE) and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP).

HE occurs as a result of liver failure and is marked by confusion, an altered level of consciousness and, in serious cases, coma and possibly death. SBP is an acute bacterial infection of abdominal fluid and can occur as a result of HE.

Researchers examined the relationship between PPIs and the development of these two serious complications in patients with cirrhosis with ascites, a condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the abdomen. Their results showed patients currently taking PPIs were at a 36% increased risk for developing HE compared to patients who were not taking PPIs. The risk for overt HE, or more serious cases of HE, were even greater for those patients currently taking PPIs – an 88% increased risk compared to nonusers. Current users of PPIs were also at a 72% increased risk for developing SBP compared to nonusers.

The authors noted PPIs may be used by as many as 46% to 78% of patients with cirrhosis. This could have serious clinical implications for those patients, as the study’s results suggest.

“HE is a devastating complication of cirrhosis associated with a poor quality of life, a high risk of recurrence, and a dismal prognosis,” the authors wrote.

The Danish study was inspired by a Chinese study published in 2014 in the journal Hepatitis Monthly that found a link between PPIs and HE in patients with hepatitis B-related liver failure. The Chinese study found those patients with HE had a significantly higher rate of PPI use (89.1%) compared to patients with non-HE (63.6%).

PPIs are some of the most widely used drugs worldwide. In 2015, sales of the heartburn medications in the U.S. alone reached $9.5 billion. PPIs are available both as prescriptions and over the counter, and are sold under well-known brands like Nexium and Prilosec.

These medications are not only associated with serious health problems in patients with cirrhosis, but have also been linked to an increased risk for chronic kidney disease when taken over long periods of time. A study published in JAMA earlier this year found patients taking PPIs were 20% to 50% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those not taking PPIs.

Lawsuits may be filed against the makers of some PPIs by patients who took the drugs and suffered kidney damage as a result. If you or a loved a loved one took a proton pump inhibitor, such as Nexium or Prilosec, and suffered serious kidney damage, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Hood National Law Group today for a free case evaluation and to see if you qualify for a PPI Lawsuit.