Nexium, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), is one of the most powerful prescription drugs for reducing heartburn, but PPIs come with so many serious risks it’s a wonder that anyone would outweigh its benefits over risks. And it’s also a wonder that the FDA hasn’t taken it off the market.
Perhaps one reason Nexium is so popular (sales exceed $6 billion annually) is because Big Pharma made it and other PPIs a household brand, through direct-to-consumer advertising. People believed from TV ads that their heartburn, which they used to treat with over-the-counter treatments like Tums, could put them at risk for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
And the cost: Consumer Reports notes that Nexium averages $240 a month, but generic PPIs Omeprazole and Lansoprazole average only $17 a month. Rather than lose a customer to a generic equivalent, AstraZeneca told Consumer Reports that it offers assistance programs to help patients who can’t afford the medication. (It doesn’t mention assistance for those consumers with Nexium fractures.)
A company spokesperson said, “AstraZeneca understands that our medicines will not benefit patients if they are unable to afford them and that’s why we’ve offered patient assistance programs for more than 35 years. These programs are designed to help qualifying patients afford their medicines through a variety of channels. In 2013, AstraZeneca provided nearly $975 million in savings to more than 567,000 patients in the US through its patient assistance programs.”
READ MORE NEXIUM USE AND INCREASED RISK FOR FRACTURE LEGAL NEWS
In 2012, the FDA warned that PPIs, including Nexium, are linked to Clostridium Difficile, a life-threatening intestinal infection that is increasingly becoming drug resistant and hard to treat. Nexium patients probably didn’t read those 2013 medical journals that linked Nexium to fractures, and calcium and magnesium and vitamin B-12 deficiencies. Or the research from Houston Methodist Hospital that found PPIs might cause blood vessels to constrict and cardiovascular risks.
Nexium’s patent is up this year - it may have come in gangbusters, but it will likely go out trailing a slew of Nexium lawsuits.