With $2.5 billion in sales for 2015 alone, doctors commonly prescribe the “little purple pill” Nexium for heartburn. PPIs also helps patients with difficulty swallowing, persistent cough, and other acid reflux symptoms. Part of a family of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), it blocks stomach acid production and is prescribed at an alarmingly high rate. Clinical nutritionist Joelle Cafaro, says: “Nexium prescriptions are filled at a rate of 15.2 million a month and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) symptoms are prevalent in 35% of individuals aged 45 to 79.” But what many don’t tell you (or rather, what manufacturers fail to warn consumers about) are dangerous Nexium adverse reactions. In fact, all PPI medications share the same associated health complication risks. These side effects can be significant, lasting and even deadly, especially if the the medication’s used long-term.
Here are just a few of the Nexium adverse reactions that may occur when using this or any other PPI.
Nexium Adverse Reactions: Heart Attack
Many who experience a heart attack while using Nexium might actually mistake it for severe heartburn. Both conditions include symptoms of pain and discomfort resting in the upper chest as well as throat. In reality, it’s a life-threatening event… and the link to a heart attack is definitively present.
A 2015 study funded by the National Institutes of Health analyzed nearly 300,000 adults with acid reflux. Among that demographic, patients taking PPIs (such as Nexium) were 16-21% more likely to have a heart attack than those not taking medication.
Even more alarming is that the risk may extend to patients without any prior cardiovascular disease history. The study also found that H2 blockers (another class of heartburn drugs) weren’t linked to any increased heart attack risk. Widely available over-the-counter H2 blockers include Zantac, Pepcid, and Tagamet.
“These are powerful drugs, and we already know they have negative effects,” says Dr. F. Paul Buckley III, surgical director at the Scott & White Heartburn and Acid Reflux Center in Round Rock, TX, about PPIs.
Nexium Adverse Reactions: Bone Fracture and Osteoporosis
In 2011, the FDA warned about PPIs (including Nexium) having negative osteoporotic effects. The warning was intended for family practice physicians as well as consumers. The FDA stated any warning about higher risk of osteoporosis or bone fracture was missing on the “Drug Facts” label. They also said physicians should “consider whether a lower dose or shorter duration of therapy would adequately treat the patient’s condition” due to bone fracture risks, especially in older women.
The association between PPIs and bone fractures is most likely caused by stomach acid reduction. Lack of sufficient gastric acid hinders absorption of magnesium and calcium as well as other nutrients needed for bone health.
>Dr. Blair Jobe, director of the Esophageal and Lung Institute in Pennsylvania, says recent studies prompted patient concern. Dr. Jobe says, “I saw a 70-year-old lady the other day with osteopenia (thinning bones) who came to me with concerns about PPIs. I took her off them and put her on Zantac.” He explained that Zantac is an H2 drug, which helps limit stomach acid — to a less extreme degree. Because of the high osteoporotic episode risk when using PPIs, many patients would do better with H2 blockers. However, they aren’t always given the option by their healthcare provider.
Nexium Adverse Reactions: Clostridium Difficile (C-diff) and Frequent Diarrhea
C-diff is a gastrointestinal infection that occurs when protective bacteria are destroyed by antibiotics or other agents, affecting gut chemistry. But what manufacturers fail to mention is that stomach acid isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, some gastric acid is to digest food properly and absorb minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. By killing all “bad” bacteria causing heartburn and other GERD-related issues, it also kills the good bacteria. This may result in a painful C-diff. infection.
C-diff exhibits itself as severe diarrhea. This intestinal infection causes watery stool, stomach pain, and fever. The FDA warns that PPI patients experiencing these side effects should tell their doctor immediately.
Nexium Adverse Reactions: Dementia and Alzheimer’s in Elderly Patients
A 2015 German study published in JAMA Neurology shows startling evidence that eliminating stomach acid could extend past the heart, bones and digestive tract, affecting the brain. They analyzed 73,769 patients age 75 years of age or older. All subjects were free of dementia at the beginning of the study. They found those receiving regular PPI medication had a 33% increase in dementia and 44% increase in Alzheimer’s diagnoses. Researchers conclude, “The avoidance of PPI medication may prevent the development of dementia.”
Lewis H. Kuller, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health professor, says that the study is “solid.” Dr. Kuller adds, “Overall, there’s a risk of dementia based on these articles. If you don’t need the drug, don’t use it.” To clarify further, “The issue is whether too many people are taking them (PPIs), and whether there are adverse side effects unrecognized by doctors and the public, with people taking these drugs for long periods of time.” Dr. Kuller admits that all drugs pose potential risks, saying, “But if you are taking them long term and getting good effects, other drugs can be used instead.”
Unfortunately, because patients take Nexium in record numbers, drug manufacturers have a responsibility to warn the public about potential dangers.
What You Can Do
Because the drug is prescribed so rampantly (clinical nutritionist Joelle Cafaro, 15.2 million Nexium prescriptions are filled a month), thousands have suffered debilitating side effects as a result and were not warned.< If you or a loved one experienced any Nexium adverse reactions or from taking other PPI inhibitors such as Prilosec, you may be have a case. To find out if you may be eligible for compensation, fill out our free case review form today.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.