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Prilosec is a popular medication for treating heartburn, but its side effects lead to several lawsuits against the drug’s maker, AstraZeneca. Plaintiffs sued the drug company after suffering fractures they say Prilosec caused. Now, studies link the drug to kidney damage and dementia and Prilosec lawyers are accepting claims.
Prilosec is a heartburn drug that was approved by the FDA in 1989. This drug was first in its class of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), which are medications that slow the stomach’s production of acid to prevent Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or acid reflux disease.
Since its development in 1989, Prilosec has been one of the leading medications used to treat gastroesphageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcer disease (PUD) worldwide. The first in its class of proton pump inhibitors, the prescription medication slows the stomach’s production of acid, reducing the user’s symptoms of heartburn. However, many of AstraZeneca’s customers found out their long-term use of omeprazole did them more harm than good. Since its development, studies link the drug to intestinal infections, bone fractures, low magnesium levels and, most recently, to kidney disease, kidney injury and dementia. Many people who say they suffered injuries because of the drug turned to Prilosec lawyers for help obtaining compensation.
People turned to the legal system to seek compensation and justice against AstraZeneca. Because of the newest studies on Prilosec and other proton pump inhibitors, Prilosec lawyers are accepting cases against the pharmaceutical company for kidney damage and memory loss conditions found in Prilosec patients.
These studies show people who take proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec:
In addition to paying for doctor’s visits, insurance fees and regular prescription refills, Prilosec patients who have experienced the drug’s most adverse side effects have also had to bear the costs of extended medical care. This varies from side effect to side effect, but often includes costly procedures like surgery, dialysis, organ transplant and involves financing room and board at a nursing home. In addition to the financial costs, the side effects from omeprazole also often cause emotion distress for Prilosec patients and their loved ones. A Prilosec lawyer specializes in cases against Big Pharma, and they can help obtain compensation for these damages.
Dementia is an umbrella term for several cognitive conditions that involve severe memory loss. Alzheimer’s is the most well-known form of dementia. Although it mostly occurs in the elderly, patients as young as 40 years old can develop dementia. There is no cure for the condition.
Because people with dementia struggle with memory, they often pose a threat to themselves and others. For this reason, and because most families do not have the resources to devote to 24/7 caregiving, most dementia patients become residents at assisted living facilities or nursing homes.
This type of long-term care can be very expensive, regardless of whether the patient lives in a facility or at a private residence. In the U.S., residency at a nursing home costs $80,300 per year for a semi-private room, and $91,250 for a private room. Basic services at these facilities cost $43,200 per year. If the dementia patient lives at home, getting the assistance of a home health aide can cost roughly $20 per hour, and adult daycare services can cost about $60 per day.
Kidney injury and disease are very similar. Both conditions may result in kidney failure but vary in the length of time symptoms present themselves. Chronic kidney disease is a loss in kidney function over an extended period, like months or years. Acute kidney injury is a sudden loss in kidney function, which can take place over a matter of hours or days.
While doctors treat both conditions with dialysis — a costly blood filtering procedure that repeats regularly — eventually users will need surgery, either to repair a damaged kidney or transplant a new one.
In the United States, chronic kidney disease costs $48 billion each year and dialysis accounts for 6.7 percent of the nation’s total Medicare budget. In 2011, the average cost to Medicare per person in kidney failure was $88,000 for external hemodialysis, $71,000 for internal peritoneal dialysis and $33,000 for a transplant.
Although the FDA approved Prilosec for use with adults and children, it is unclear what the drug’s effects are on expectant mothers and their unborn children. The FDA labeled Prilosec with a pregnancy category “C” rating, meaning it is uncertain if the drug causes damage to fetuses.
Prilosec is one of the most common medications among pregnant women because they often experience chronic heartburn. Pregnancy causes the overproduction of hormones like progesterone, which makes the muscles relax and can cause acid reflux disease or GERD. Researchers conducted a few studies to examine whether or not the use of proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec cause adverse effects in unborn children, but the results vary.
In one 2010 study released in the New England Journal of Medicine, the examination of more than 840,000 live births in Denmark showed that the use of proton pump inhibitors was not correlated with birth defects.
Alternatively, a 2010 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine examined medical records from a global database and found nearly 209,000 pregnancies that linked the use of proton pump inhibitors and heart defects. The scientists performed a second analysis and determined babies of mothers who took proton pump inhibitors within the first trimester of pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have cardiac defects as those who did not.
A turbulent legal history followed Prilosec since AstraZeneca first launched the drug in 1989. Originally, AstraZeneca named the drug “Losec.” However, the FDA almost immediately required the company change the medication name due to a few fatal errors. Pharmacists were confusing prescriptions written for Losec with Lasix, a diuretic, and mistakenly filling the wrong medication. In one case, a patient with a bleeding ulcer took the diuretic unknowingly and bled to death. The opposite also occurred — in one example, a patient with congestive heart failure died after taking Losec by mistake instead of the correct prescription.
During Prilosec’s prime, AstraZeneca faced several lawsuits claiming the company did not warn its customers against all of the possible side effects and produced a defective product. Patients who developed bone fractures and low magnesium levels joined class action lawsuits against the pharmaceutical company, many of which resulted in an updated warning labels.
AstraZeneca was also under much scrutiny in the mid-2000s after it launched Prilosec’s successor drug, Nexium. In a technique called "evergreening," the company allowed its patent on Prilosec to run out and created a new, nearly identical drug that was much more expensive to replace it. AstraZeneca spent $260 million marketing the drug to the American public, who in turn launched several lawsuits against AstraZeneca when it was discovered the two drugs were almost chemically identical. One such lawsuit settled in February 2015 for $20 million.
The claims against AstraZeneca vary, and many lawsuits are still ongoing. Some of the most recent Prilosec settlements include a $20 million settlement in 2015. In that class action lawsuit, consumers alleged the company’s marketing campaign tricked consumers into buying the more expensive Nexium rather than Prilosec, even though the drugs have the same effect.
In 2008, the pharmaceutical company won a similar case over the Prilosec and Nexium marketing, in which pharmacies like Walgreens and Rite Aid sued it for violating antitrust laws.
In one of the most recent Prilosec class action lawsuits, defendants claimed the OTC version of the drug increased a person’s chances of contracting food poisoning, a side effect the drug’s literature does not warn against.