Published: Fri, July 07, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Indigestion, heartburn drugs increase risk of early death

Indigestion, heartburn drugs increase risk of early death

PPIs are among the most commonly used drugs in the United States, accounting for approximately $10 billion in annual sales.

Following the publication of the study, the Australian Self-Medication Industry said that consumers can have confidence in the safety profile and effectiveness of OTC PPIs when used as recommended.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are one of the commonest agents prescribed for heart burn or acid reflux.

"This electronic system helped us to obtain the information of the 6 million patients from last six years and analyze them whether they were prescribed with any proton-pump inhibitors", Al-Aly narrated.

It may cause pain and discomfort, which can also result in sleepless nights.

The researchers compared patients who took proton-pump inhibitors with those who took another type of drug that reduces heartburn: histamine H2 receptor antagonists, also known as H2 blockers. This increased the longer PPIs were taken. "More prolonged use was associated with even higher risk".

Our first instinctive reflex is to take pills or drugs to relieve us of the discomfort.

Prior observational studies have linked PPI use with an increase in adverse health outcomes, including an increase in acute interstitial nephritis and kidney disease progression.

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.

Because millions of people take PPIs regularly, that 25% chance could translate into thousands of deaths a year, Al-Aly said.

They found a higher death risk among those taking proton pump inhibitors for an extended period of time. The research is published online July 3 in the journal BMJ Open. Researchers found almost 276,000 patients who had been prescribed a PPI and almost 74,000 who had been prescribed H2 blockers between October 2006 and September 2008. Compared with those taking other drugs, gastric acid from H2 blockers (Zantac or the like) is known pepsin.

For new PPI users, death risk rose in tandem with the amount of time the person took the medication.

The growing body of scientific evidence "showing a host of adverse events" associated with use of these drugs is "compelling", concluded Al-Aly and his co-authors.

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

"We took it a bit further and asked is this class associated with a higher risk of death, and the answer is yes", he said. "I would say it is a small but significant risk", he says. But after 1 to 2 years of use, the risk of death among PPI users was almost 50 per cent higher than among H2 blocker users.

The researchers cautioned that the results should not deter prescribing and use of PPI when there's a clear medical reason for them.

After 30 days, the risk of death in PPI and H2 blocker groups was not significantly different.

"PPIs save lives", Al-Aly said.

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