Updated October 26, 2019
If you developed stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, or liver cancer after taking Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, or a prescription antacid, contact our lawyers today for a free, confidential consultation. Several medical studies have linked these drugs, called proton-pump inhibitors, to an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer. This page answers several frequently asked questions about filing an antacid cancer lawsuit.
You can read more about our lawyers at the bottom of this page — I’ve debated drug company lawyers on Capitol Hill and have been appointed by federal courts to steering committees in drug injury lawsuits. You can reach me by calling my office toll-free at (844) 459-8719, emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by using the contact form at the bottom of the page.
What Do The Proton-Pump Inhibitor Lawsuits Allege?
Proton-pump inhibitors were supposed to be the final word in treating stomach acid conditions like indigestion, dyspepsia, GERD, acid reflux disease, and peptic ulcers. Prilosec was the first, followed soon by Prevacid and Nexium, but they’re all basically the same: a pyridine and benzimidazole moiety linked by a methylsulfinyl group. PPIs also all work the same way, by blocking the proton pump of the gastric parietal cells, which is the very last step before the stomach produces acid.
As of 2019, the Food and Drug Administration has approved six proton-pump inhibitors for treatment of gastrointestinal issues:
- Omeprazole / Prilosec
- Esomeprazole / Nexium
- Lansoprazole / Prevacid
- Dexlansoprazole / Dexilant
- Pantoprazole / Protonix
- Rabeprazole / AcipHex
None of these drugs warn that the use of PPIs has been associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer in people who use them. The drug companies do not list that as a side effect in their advertisements, in the prescribing information provided to doctors, or in the medication guide provided to patients. The drug companies do not even suggest that PPIs not be taken long-term because of the risk of cancer, even though the current science shows that, the longer a person takes PPIs, the greater the risk.
The lawsuits allege that the companies behind these medications should have warned consumers and doctors about the risk of stomach and esophageal cancer. This litigation is in its very early stages, and there have been no settlements for gastric cancer caused by proton-pump inhibitors.
Do Drugs Like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid Cause Stomach Cancer?
For years medical researchers have been raising red flags about the overuse of PPIs. Prilosec (omeprazole) was called “the first compound accepted for use in humans after having induced cancer in its target organ.” Those concerns were dismissed by the drug companies as merely theoretical, but with years of use by the public, it turns out the researchers were right: a combined study published in 2016 of over 80,000 patients showed that the use of proton-pump inhibitors was associated with a significant increase in the risk of gastric cancer. The drug companies talked that one down, too, arguing that the patients were really developing cancer because of H. pylori infections, not because of the PPIs. (This argument makes some superficial sense: H. pylori infection has been linked with stomach cancers, and PPIs are often prescribed to treat it.)
The argument that patients were really developing stomach cancer from the H. pylori, instead of from drugs like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid, however, didn’t hold up. In October 2017, a separate group of researchers found, in a study of over 60,000 patients, that “long-term PPIs use was associated with a 2.4-fold increase in gastric cancer risk in H. pylori-infected subjects who had received eradication therapy.” That is to say, patients with H. pylori were at an even greater risk of stomach cancer if they took PPIs. Moreover, the researchers found evidence of a “dose-response” relationship, which means that people who took PPIs daily were at a higher risk, and people who took PPIs daily for more than three years were at the highest risk. That sort of “dose-response” is considered throughout the field of epidemiology to be important evidence that a drug is causing a side effect.
Then, two months later, in December 2017, a group of gastroenterologists who were alarmed by this data performed an analysis using the records of their patients who had been treated for H. pylori and found that PPI use increased the risk of gastric cancer. In May 2019, epidemiologists analyzed seven different epidemiological studies and concluded that “even after H. pylori eradication, long-term PPI use is still associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer by more than twofold.”
How Do Proton-Pump Inhibitors Increase The Risk Of Gastric Cancer?
Proton-pump inhibitors are most closely related to a particular type of stomach cancer, called non-cardia adenocarcinoma. These are stomach cancers that develop outside of the “cardia,” which is the top of the stomach, where it connects to the esophagus.
The risk of cancer with PPIs comes from the same process as the benefits of PPIs: the long-term suppression of stomach acid. When PPIs reduce stomach acid, they also stimulate the production of gastrin, a powerful growth hormone. A pharmacological review in 2015 showed that most patients who took PPIs long-term developed hypergastrinaemia, which in turn promotes cell hyperplasia, a form of excessive cell growth that can progress into cancer. In fact, gastrin plays such a prominent role that many forms of stomach cancer treatment focus on blocking the effects of gastrin.
PPIs are more effective in treating issues like GERD in part because they work over a longer period of time than histamine2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs), synthetic prostaglandin analogs, and anticholinergics. PPIs bind to activated gastric parietal cells and permanently inhibit acid secretion until the gastric tissue can synthesize new proton pumps, a process that takes between 24 and 36 hours. Thus, if someone takes PPIs daily for months or years, that person will go the whole time with inhibited proton pumps, and a corresponding constant increase in gastrin and other growth-promoting hormones. Those are the same hormones that can promote tumors, pre-cancerous lesions, and cancer. One study also noted that users of PPIs were twice as likely to develop liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), potentially due to “dysbiosis,” or harmful changes in gut bacteria, which can lead to pro-inflammatory cytokines that promote cancer.
Is The FDA Going To Recall Nexium, Prilosec, Or Prevacid?
Under federal law, drug manufacturers bear responsibility for the content of their warning labels, not the FDA. The FDA does has enforcement mechanisms, and the FDA sometimes forces drug manufacturers to add certain warnings, but the FDA doesn’t have nearly enough resources to monitor every side effect for every drug. Federal law requires drug companies do that, and requires those same companies to add warnings whenever there is “reasonable evidence of a causal association.” Our lawyers believe there is “reasonable evidence of a causal association” and that the companies behind these antacids should have added a warning.
Gastric cancer isn’t the only serious risk of drugs like Nexium and Prilosec. Some studies have tied the use of antacids in pregnancy to a higher rate of asthma in children, and others have found PPI users have a greater chance of developing dementia (even in mice, PPI increases beta-amyloid in the brain) and an increased risk of death from all causes, particularly with long-term use and in patients who don’t have gastrointestinal conditions.
The medical community has started to recognize how proton-pump inhibitors are over-prescribed. As several researchers noted in a recent article,
[I]t is obvious that these drugs can be beneficial only in true non-erosive reflux disease and hypersensitive esophagus to acid, while they do not work in patients with hypersensitive esophagus to non-acid or in those with functional heartburn, where acid does not play any pathogenetic role. It is important to stress that the use of PPIs is inappropriate in treating these two last conditions and other therapeutic modalities, e.g. surgery or pain modulators, must be adopted.
The medical community is starting to recognize that proton-pump inhibitors are overused and are particularly dangerous when used long-term. But for many people this advice is coming too late, and the drug companies must be held accountable for the damage they caused.
Who Are The Lawyers Behind This Website?
I wrote everything you see on this website myself. I’m not a an actor on a television commercial or someone in a call center, and this isn’t one of those misleading websites that doesn’t even tell you who is behind it. I’m a real lawyer who has successfully tried serious injury and wrongful death cases in front of juries, and a five-time winner of the American Bar Association Journal’s award for legal writing online.
I’ve represented thousands of people injured by prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Currently, I am appointed by a federal court to the plaintiffs’ steering committee of the litigation involving incretin mimetics (a type of diabetes drug) and pancreatic cancer, and appointed by a different federal court as the liaison counsel in the litigation involving Mirena and intracranial hypertension. You can read more about me here.
If you use the contact form below, the email goes to me. If you call (844) 459-8719, it will be answered by me or by my receptionist. But it’s not just about me. Taking on Goliath drug manufacturers means working together with other plaintiffs’ lawyers other law firms, and I work with the best in the business, the lawyers that can go through millions of documents to find the crucial evidence, and can hire and work with the best experts. We’ve already been working with gastric oncologists, cancer epidemiologists, gastroenterologists, and gastric surgeons to develop the case.