Popular Heartburn Drugs May Boost Death Risk

Popular Heartburn Drugs May Boost Death Risk

Popular Heartburn Drugs May Boost Death Risk

Now, a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that longtime use of the drugs also is associated with an increased risk of death.

PPI users with those who took neither PPIs nor H2 blockers.

Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia.

'Additionally, the study had several limitations, including the fact that PPI users involved in the study were of an advanced age and may have already had other underlying health conditions, the researchers were unable to obtain information about their causes of death. The center's volunteer statisticians noted that up to 10% of people taking proton-pump inhibitors died within one year, which suggests that the deaths may be linked to their' other conditions.

Compared with people who used H2 blockers - a class of medications containing active ingredients which travel to specific receptors on the surface of the stomach cells that release acids - PPI use was associated with a 25% heightened risk of death from all causes.

Al-Aly and colleagues found a 25 percent increased risk of death in the PPI group compared with the H2 blocker group. Over-the-counter PPIs are most often used for heartburn and indigestion.

Acid reflux is commonly caused by smoking, obesity and diet.

For those who took them consistently for more than six months the risk of death rose to 31 per cent, and if people took them for more than a year the risk jumped again to 51 per cent. "It should prompt people to look at whether they should be on PPIs in the first place or not".

Medication used to treat heartburn and acid reflux has been linked to a greater risk of premature death, according to a U.S. study. The longer the use, the higher the risk, he says. According to the study, the odds of death among people taking PPIs and H2 blocker groups for 30 days was not significantly different.

If about 500 patients took proton-pump inhibitors for a year, there would be one death that may be related to the drug use, explained Al-Aly. The Food and Drug Administration recommends taking PPIs no longer than four weeks before consulting a doctor. "There needs to be periodic reassessments as to whether people need to be on these. 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.

Dr. Ihab Hajjar, an associate professor at the Emory University School of Medicine, said the new findings are "concerning".

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". "Nevertheless, it is important for patients to regularly review all current medications with the prescribing providers".

If PPI or other acid-suppressing medications are needed, doctors suggest taking it for the shortest duration at the lowest dose required to control symptoms.

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