BALTIMORE, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Proton-pump inhibitors, used to treat heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux, have been linked to a significantly increased risk of kidney disease, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University.
The new study is the latest to find an association between PPIs and negative health outcomes. Studies in 2015 linked the drugs to an increased risk of heart attack, as well as to increased chance of death for hospital patients.
PPI drugs such as Prilosec and Nexium have been in use since the 1980s when they were thought to be relatively safe, leading to widespread use for heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. During the last decade, however, concerns have grown about a growing list of side effects and significant health risks.
"It is possible that PPI users are sicker than nonusers, or that adverse effects are caused by other drugs or conditions associated with PPI use," Dr. Adam Schoenfeld and Dr. Deborah Grady wrote in an editorial published with the new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "However, some adverse effects have been documented by multiple high-quality observational studies and are likely causal."
In the new study, researchers analyzed medical data for 10,482 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, conducted from 1996 to 2011. The results of the data review were then replicated in a further analysis of medical data on 248,751 patients in the Geisinger Health System.
Among the 322 people using PPIs in the ARIC study, risk for kidney disease was 11.8 percent, compared to the expected risk of 8.5 percent. Among the 16,900 patients in the Geisinger Health System data using PPIs, risk for kidney disease was 15.6 percent, compared to the expected risk of 13.9 percent.
The researchers said the study didn't determine the overall greatest risk among participants for kidney disease, focusing instead on whether a person had been prescribed a PPI.
Dr. Morgan Grams, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, said the study does not prove PPIs cause kidney disease. Though more research is required, Grams said doctors and patients should be aware the risk may be there.
"They're very, very common medications," Grams told NPR. "Given the fact that so many people use PPI medications, I think it is judicious to exercise some caution."