AstraZeneca’s little “purple pill” heartburn medication Nexium is one of the most popular reflux treatments available on the market. Recently, a man from New York filed a lawsuit against the company alleging Nexium caused him to develop chronic kidney disease.

George Mullen took Nexium for years to help relieve his heartburn symptoms, but he has now been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, or the gradual loss of function in the kidneys. The treatment for chronic kidney disease usually includes regular dialysis and can even require a complete kidney transplant.

How Does Nexium Work?

Nexium is part of a class of medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that work by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach to relieve heartburn. But PPIs have also been linked to a variety of severe and life-threatening side effects. A study published in the Journal Of The American Society Of Nephology this past April found that PPI users had a 28% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease over patients who take other heartburn medications. This resulted in a 96% increased chance of developing end-stage kidney failure within five years of starting regular use.

In addition to kidney injuries, a study published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases found patients who took PPIs were at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, when bones become weak and brittle, and osteopenia, when the body can’t regenerate bones as quickly.

To add salt to the wound, a recent study published by Health Canada found PPI users had an increased risk of developing an intestinal infection called Clostridium Difficile, more commonly known as C. diff. This infection can cause patients to experience as many as 40 bowel movements a day and can be life threatening if not treated in time.

Millions Use PPIs and Millions May Be Affected By Side Effects

Currently, more than 15 million Americans take PPIs to help relieve heartburn and other indigestion issues. While several lawsuits have already been filed against PPI manufacturers like AstraZeneca, it is anticipated many more will follow.