With prescription drug manufacturer AstraZaneca facing a potential downfall in next 12 to 18 months due to lost patents from its two most popular drugs – Crestor and Nexium – the company is now facing the prospect of another huge threat; lawsuits. This is because claims have begun flooding in stemming from Nexium’s potentially harmful side effects, most notably the loss of bone density and hip fractures. Nexium, also known as “the purple pill,” belongs to a group of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, which is used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, inflammation and other symptoms related to excessive stomach acid. It functions by blocking the production of stomach acid. Nexium is not intended for the immediate relief of heartburn. Nexium is AstraZeneca’s most popular drug, accounting for over $6 billion a year in sales. However, in March of 2011, the FDA issued a safety alert warning that proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium pose an elevated risk of hip, wrist spine and other bone fractures. This followed studies by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), American Medical Association and British Medical Journal, among others, which indicated that drugs containing protein pump inhibitors, like Nexium, increase the risk of hip and bone fractures by as much as fifty percent. In all, six different studies linked Nexium to these dangerous side effects as early as 2006. Still, AstraZeneca refused to take any decisive action until it was forced to by the FDA in 2011. These warnings have prompted an influx of lawsuits against AstraZeneca, claiming that the manufacturer failed to disclose dangerous information relating to the risks of bone deterioration and fractures associated with Nexium. The lawsuits contend that AstraZeneca continued to market and advertise the drug despite growing concerns about safety hazards and long term health issues, especially among woman and the elderly.