Heartburn Drugs Can Double The Risk Of Kidney Failure Study Says.
It is inaccurate and misleading to use scientific data to suggest that heartburn drugs double the risk of heart failure.
A post on Natural News leads with the title ‘Prilosec and Other Heartburn Drugs Can Double Risk of Heart Failure’.
This claim is based on an interpretation of a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2015 (1). This was a population-based study looking at Ontario-based residents age 66 years of age and older who started proton pump inhibitors between 2002 and 2011.
Proton pump inhibitors (heartburn drugs) are the most widely prescribed medications worldwide. Proton pump inhibitors are only available with a doctor’s prescription in Ontario, Canada. All residents of Ontario are entitled to free prescription drugs once they reach the age of 65. The Ontario Drug Benefit database records and documents all free prescribed medications.
For the purposes of this paper, the study group was defined as anyone in the Ontario Drug Benefit database who received any of the following proton pump inhibitors: omeprazole, esomeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole or rabeprazole. Recipients of proton pump inhibitors who had known renal disease or who received any other medication known to impair renal function were excluded from the study.
A total of 290592 people who were started on proton pump inhibitors during the study period were followed for an average of 120 days. There was a statistically significant higher rate of acute kidney injury in people taking proton pump inhibitors as compared to match controls.
The study had a number of important limitations. Firstly, a diagnosis of acute kidney injury was based on administrative data and not laboratory data or kidney biopsies. Secondly (and most importantly) the study identified an association between heartburn drugs and renal damage. This is a key inherent limitation of any observational study such as this. Association is very different to causation. Association means that two things occur together but does not mean that one thing caused the other.
As the authors of this study conclude ‘As with all observational studies, it is possible that our findings partially reflect unmeasured confounders or intergroup differences in baseline risk of acute renal outcome’.
In summary, scientific data supports the fact that there is a ‘link’ between use of heartburn drugs and kidney injury. However, it is not possible to know if the observed ‘link’ is directly due to the drugs themselves or some other factor /confounder at this stage.