The man, Charles Bowers, started taking Nexium in July 2003. He used it routinely to treat symptoms of heartburn until May 2008, when was diagnosed with drug-induced interstitial nephritis.
Nephritis is a type of kidney inflammation that is usually caused by an allergic reaction to medications in the bloodstream. It can occur at any time in patients on Nexium, even if they have taken it safely before.
Unfortunately, many people who develop nephritis are left with long-term kidney problems. In May 2009, Bowers was diagnosed with chronic nephritis. He now undergoes dialysis three times a week and needs a kidney transplant.
AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of Nexium, is accused of failing to warn about the risk of kidney problems. The first case reports were published in 2004, but nephritis was not added to the label until 2014.
Last year, a study published in CMAJ Open found that older adults who used anti-heartburn drugs like Nexium were three times more likely to develop nephritis than non-users.
More recent studies have found a 20-50% increased risk of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in patients on anti-heartburn drugs in the Proton-Pump Inhibitor (PPI) class, which includes Nexium and Prilosec.
Heartburn drugs are widely available over-the-counter, which is why many people falsely assume they are relatively safe. The FDA has issued warnings about a long list of side effects from PPIs, including:
- Interstitial nephritis (kidney inflammation)
- Bone fractures
- Hip, wrist, and spinal fractures
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Chronic diarrhea from Clostridium difficile infections
- Low magnesium, which can cause muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat, or seizures
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on July 5, 2016 — Case No. 2:16-cv-02549.