Drug maker AstraZeneca could be facing a wave of lawsuits over Nexium, the widely prescribed treatment for excess stomach acid.
Nexium (esomeprazole) is used to treat stomach and esophagus problems such as acid reflux and ulcers. Nexium relieves symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and persistent cough, according to WebMD. Unlike other antacids, Nexium decreases the amount of acid the stomach makes, rather than neutralizing acid. The medication helps heal acid damage to the stomach and esophagus; helps prevent ulcers, and may help prevent cancer of the esophagus.
Nexium is in the class of acid-suppressing medicines known as proton pump inhibitors, (PPIs). PPIs decrease the production of acid in the stomach.
Like most drugs, Nexium has side effects, and some of these side effects can be quite serious. Recent studies have shown that some Nexium users experience kidney side effects. In the worst cases, the user can suffer chronic kidney disease. A study published in April 2015 in CMAJ Open (the Canadian Medical Association Journal) reported that patients taking Nexium or another PPI had more than double the likelihood of hospital admission for acute kidney injury, Top Class Actions reports.
A study published earlier this year in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that those who took a PPI had a 20 to 50 percent higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease. In this study, the researchers reviewed records of more than 10,000 patients. Some of the patients took a PPI and other took an acid-suppressing drug in the H2-receptor antagonist class. People who took PPIs twice daily showed a higher incidence of chronic kidney disease than those who took them only once a day.
The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology published a study with similar results. That study involved records of thousands of patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. The researchers compared the histories of new users of PPIs like Nexium to records of new users of H2-receptor antagonists, Top Class Actions reports. PPI users had an increased incidence of symptoms of kidney problems and chronic kidney disease. Over the course of five years, PPI users were 28 percent more likely to develop end-stage kidney disease.
The JAMA study suggests that in Nexium users the kidneys may lose their ability to properly filter the blood. Toxins then build up in the body and if the toxins cannot be successfully cleansed from the blood, the individual may die. A patient with chronic kidney disease may eventually need kidney dialysis or may even need a kidney transplant in order to survive.
With the growing body of studies showing Nexium’s association with kidney disease, lawsuits are emerging from Nexium users who allege the drug is to blame for their kidney damage. In May 2016, a Nexium user filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Nexium caused kidney side effects. The plaintiff claims that AstraZeneca had evidence of the possible link between Nexium and kidney problems as early as 2004, but did not add information about the kidney risk to the drug’s warning label.