Heartburn is a very common ailment. In fact, it is estimated that in the United States alone, more than 60 million people regularly suffer heartburn attacks.
With that said, it’s no wonder heartburn medications are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the country.
However, some serious issues with these drugs beg the question: are they really the best way to deal with your heartburn problems?
For instance, Nexium, a popular heartburn drug, has been linked to several side effects. These side effects range from mild to serious, with the most serious long-term effects being kidney damage and bone fractures, among others.
Thousands of plaintiffs have already filed a Nexium lawsuit against the drug’s manufacturer after they developed severe side effects upon taking the heartburn medication.
Continue reading the article to learn more about the most important information on Nexium, including:
- What Nexium is used for
- What are proton pump inhibitors?
- Common and serious side effects of Nexium
- Long-term effects of taking Nexium
What is Nexium used for?
Nexium, also known by its generic name esomeprazole, belongs to a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPI). It is a prescription drug used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other stomach and esophagus problems, including ulcers and acid reflux.
It is also approved for healing erosive esophagitis, which is damage to the esophagus caused by excessive stomach acid.
Nexium works by blocking a proton pump and reducing the amount of acid your stomach makes. It helps relieve symptoms like heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and persistent cough.
What are proton pump inhibitors?
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a class of drugs used to treat the production of stomach acid and relieve GERD symptoms.
Aside from Nexium, PPIs include heavily marketed brand name drugs, including:
- Prevacid (lansoprazole)
- Prilosec (omeprazole)
- AcipHex (rabeprazole)
- Protonix (pantoprazole)
- Dexilant (dexlansoprazole)
Their known efficacy in treating acid-related disorders quickly made them one of the most prescribed medications by healthcare providers. However, this superb efficacy also contributed to these drugs’ overuse and misuse.
Healthcare providers are known to prescribe these medications for prolonged — and at times lifetime — use. Many patients also engage in taking the OTC versions of PPIs beyond their recommended duration of therapy without any supervision.
Over the years, concerns have been growing over the potential serious effects of long-term use of PPIs, including Nexium.
Side Effects of Nexium
Nexium is generally well tolerated. But as with any other medications, the PPI drug can also cause some side effects.
Some of the most common side effects reported with Nexium include:
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased appetite
- Dry mouth or an unusual taste in your mouth
Even though most people tolerate the heartburn medication well, it can potentially cause several serious side effects in some people.
Potential adverse effects of Nexium that require immediate medical attention include:
- Allergic reactions
- Blood in the urine
- Blistering or peeling of the skin
- Chest or back pain
- Changes in heart rhythm
- Difficulty swallowing
- Increased risk of bone fracture
- Joint or muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle spasms or twitching
- Severe stomach pain
- Severe diarrhea and watery stools that can be accompanied by stomach pain
- Skin rash and hives
- Unusual tiredness of weakness
- Vitamin b12 deficiency
- Yellow discoloration of the eyes or skin (jaundice)
Although these these serious side effects are a known less common incidence with Nexium, if they do occur, they may warrant medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms while taking esomeprazole.
Long-Term Nexium Use
Proton pump inhibitors like Nexium have been raising concerns over the adverse reactions they can cause. In fact, research in recent years has associated long-term PPI use to an increased risk of contracting various diseases and even premature death.
One of the most recent study to suggest this association was published in 2019 in the journal BMJ. According to the study, individuals who take common heartburn drugs within months or years may suffer from an increased risk of dying from kidney failure, heart disease, or stomach cancer.
The drugs in question include prescription and over-the-counter medications like Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), and Nexium (esomeprazole). Interestingly, these PPIs also rank among the top-selling drugs in the United States.
The study observed more than 200,000 U.S. veterans. It found that in a span of 10 years, 13% of PPI users died due to a form of cardiovascular condition, including stroke or heart disease. However, when authors considered other factors, such as the age of the subjects and their chronic health conditions, PPI users had an 18% increased risk of dying of cardiovascular conditions.
The bad news?
Based on the patients’ medical records, the majority of those with PPI prescriptions had no proven need for one.
“It suggests a lot of people were using a PPI without actually needing one,” said lead researcher Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, who is also an assistant professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“They could be taking a risk without deriving any benefit,” he added.
Risks Associated with Long-Term Use of Nexium
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), taking Nexium over an extended period of time can heighten the risk of inflammation of the stomach lining.
Aside from this potential risk, however, several stuides have also associated prolonged PPI therapy, including with Nexium, to a wide array of long-term adverse effects.
These medications were not properly labeled until 2014. It was the year the FDA ordered the drug manufacturers to list kidney problems as a part of its potential risks. Therefore, patients taking Nexium prior to 2014 were not aware of these serious risks.
There’s some known evidence that people who use Nexium for more than a year or use higher doses have increased rates of wrist, spine, and hip fractures.
One theory is that during acid suppression, which is the mechanism of action for PPIs, there’s a reported decrease in calcium absorption.
One large Canadian study found that the risk of hip fracture was almost five times higher among PPI users for more than seven years. Moreover, some studies also suggest that there may be as much as 41% reduction in calcium absorption after only 14 days of omeprazole therapy.
Other studies, however, have found no link between reduced calcium absorption and PPI use. But despite of some inconsistency in various studies, there is adequate evidence to add the “possible increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine” warning to the labels of popular PPI drugs.
A study of data for 63,878 hospital admissions to a hospital in Boston between January 2004 and December 2007, found that patients taking PPIs had a 30 percent increased risk of developing hospital-acquired pneumonia.
More than half of the patients admitted had a PPI prescription. 2,219 of these PPI users acquired pneumonia in the hospital, or around 3.5 percent of all the patients.
Additionally, a study conducted in the United Kingdom (U.K.) found that outpatients taking a PPI had an elevated risk of pneumonia compared to the general population for the first 30 days of PPI use. This risk is higher in the first 2 days of using a certain PPI drug.
Long-term PPI use is associated with a higher risk of enteric infections. Enteric diseases are often caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites that cause intestinal illness. Particularly, it is believed that when gastric acid secretion is suppressed by a PPI, the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) may grow in and infect the gastrointestinal tract.
Some researchers suggest that several people receive PPI prescriptions without needing one. They also believe that discontinuing PPI use can potentially reduce the risk of gastrointestinal infection.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Some studies found a correlation between long-term PPI use and chronic kidney disease. In a 2017 study, 125,000 PPI users were observed in a span of five years. Half of the individuals who developed chronic kidney damage never experienced kidney problems prior to taking PPIs.
Gastric fundic gland polyps are small, benign growths found in the upper portion of the stomach. It is believed that they result from hyperplasia or the thickening of the stomach lining. Some studies found that these polyps disappear once PPI use is stopped.
Some studies suggested that PPIs increase the risk of gastric cancer in patients infected with Helicobacter pylori. Other studies, however, had contrasting findings. It is therefore believed that additional research is necessary to determine whether PPI use indeed increases the risk of gastric cancer in people with H. pylori infection.
Research published in JAMA Neurology suggested a link between chronic PPI use and an increased risk of dementia. All participants in the study didn’t have dementia before the study began. However, after the eight-year follow-up, long-term PPI users had a 44% increased risk of dementia compared to those who didn’t take any medication.