Your Heartburn Drug Could Be Sending You To An Early Grave

Glen Mclaughlin
July 5, 2017

With so many studies associating PPIs with other health risks, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis wanted to find out if people who took the drugs were at greater risk of dying.

MONDAY, July 3, 2017 (HealthDay News) - Popular heartburn medications like Nexium, Prilosec or Prevacid may increase your risk of early death when taken for extended periods, a new study suggests.

Previous studies have linked PPIs to kidney disease and researchers reasoned that since each of the side effects carries a small risk of death, together they may affect the mortality rate of PPI users.

Still, the study is only an association - it doesn't prove cause and effect.

They found that people who took PPIs had a 24 per cent increased risk of death compared with people taking H2 blockers.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the amount of acid made by the stomach and are used to treat acid reflux and stomach ulcers.

Al-Aly called the risk small but significant since such a large number of people in the US and Canada are on these medications.

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The results revealed a 25 percent increased risk of death in the PPI group compared with the H2 blocker group.

Cohen said that "there is little question that the short-term use of PPIs for many conditions can be beneficial to patients".

In some cases, addressing the root cause of heartburn, such as by losing weight, reducing alcohol, quitting smoking and making diet changes, can quell or reduce symptoms before jumping to medications, Al-Aly said.

At the same time, Cohen noted that people taking PPIs also tend to have many other health problems, and these might influence their risk of death as well.

"No matter how we sliced and diced the data from this large data set, we saw the same thing: There's an increased risk of death among PPI users", said senior author Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, an assistant professor of medicine. "It should prompt people to look at whether they should be on PPIs in the first place or not". They say that limited use only when medically necessary is best. Nor were the researchers able to obtain information on the causes of death. According to the study, the odds of death among people taking PPIs and H2 blocker groups for 30 days was not significantly different. "And I would want my doctor to be monitoring me carefully and take me off it the moment it was no longer needed", he concludes.

The scientists stressed that patients should continue to use the drugs if their doctor prescribes them - but should steer clear if they are not definitely needed. The researchers calculate that, for every 500 people taking PPIs for a year, there is one extra death that would not have otherwise occurred.

And because "studies to demonstrate causal relationships between PPIs and death are not likely", Cohen added, "the challenge to physicians should remain to use medications judiciously and continue to assess the benefit of a medication to a patient over time". "If there isn't a compelling reason to take a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), it would be worth trying lower-risk strategies instead".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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