Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium and Prilosec have caused quite a stir lately when studies found a link between the drugs and serious side effects. For women, the danger of experiencing severe side effects from PPIs is much higher according to a new study published in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

What Are Proton Pump Inhibitors?

Nexium and Prilosec are part of a class of drugs, called proton pump inhibitors, designed to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach thereby preventing stomach acid from damaging the lining of the esophagus. PPIs have become a popular way to treat heartburn, but a recent study published in the Journal Of The American Society Of Nephology found patients who took PPIs had a 28% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease over patients who took another class of heartburn medications.

The new study published in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology measured the gastrin levels in both male and female patients after taking PPIs. Gastrin is a hormone that stimulates the release of acid in the stomach. Researchers discovered on average, women have higher levels of gastrin than men. Despite this, women were three times more likely to experience the benefit of taking PPIs with only half of the dosage given to men.

The study concluded that women could manage heartburn with much smaller dosages of PPIs, which could also lower their risk of developing chronic kidney disease or kidney failure from the drug.

Taking lower dosages could also help women reduce their risk of other debilitating side effects. Just last month, a study published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases found PPI users have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, when bones become weak and brittle, and osteopenia, when the body can’t regenerate bones as quickly.

Nexium and Prilosec manufacturers currently face lawsuits alleging the companies failed to warn consumers of the increased risks. While the lawsuits are in the very early stages, this most recent study could have profound implications for the litigation.