Warning over kidney risk from heartburn drugs

Heartburn Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Heartburn is a burning feeling that rises from the abdomen towards the neck

Long-term use of heartburn drugs may increase the risk of kidney damage, according to US research.

Scientists advised patients to use the drugs, known as proton pump inhibitors, only when medically necessary and not for too long.

The medicines suppress acid production in the stomach and are used to treat heartburn and ulcers.

Five proton pump inhibitors are licensed for use in the UK which treat millions of people each year.

These are:

  • esomeprazole
  • lansoprazole
  • omeprazole
  • pantoprazole
  • rabeprazole

Most of these medicines are prescription only, but omeprazole and pantoprazole can be bought over-the-counter at pharmacies, according to Patient UK.

Limiting use

Researchers in the US analysed information on more than 170,000 people taking proton pump inhibitors and 20,000 people taking an alternative class of drugs also used to suppress stomach acid.

Over a period of five years, those taking proton pump inhibitors had a 28% increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 96% greater risk of suffering kidney failure, according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Patients who took proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for longer periods of time were more likely to experience kidney problems.

Lead scientist Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, from the VA Saint Louis Health Care System in the US, said: "The results emphasise the importance of limiting PPI use to only when it is medically necessary, and also limiting the duration of use to the shortest possible.

"A lot of patients start taking PPIs for a medical condition, and they continue much longer than necessary."

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