UPDATE (7/5/2017) — New research out of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis adds more weight to the case that heavy duty heartburn drugs, called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), can do more harm than good in the long term.
Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a professor of medicine at the university, and his colleagues set out to learn whether or not those using PPIs were at a higher risk of dying than their counterparts that did not use PPIs. Their research showed that long-time PPI users are 25 percent more likely to die than their counterparts who don't use PPIs.
"What that really translates to is that if 500 patients took the medication for about a year, then there would be one excess death that could be attributed to using this class of medication called PPI," said Al-Aly.
And while that might not seem like a large number, Al-Aly calls it a "small but significant" number, according to CBC News, because of the number of people in the US who currently use these drugs.
Al-Aly's study looked at almost 275,000 PPI users and compared them to about 75,000 people who were using another class of drugs, H2 blockers, to cut down on the amount of stomach acid. They found that the longer a person used PPIs, which are supposed to be a short-term option, the more they increased their chances of death.
"These medications (PPIs) in the right context when patients need them, they actually could save lives," Al-Aly said. "So what we generally advocate is a very careful risk/benefit analysis in each individual to determine if the risk outweighs the benefit in any individual patient. That naturally has to be done by their physician."
So what does that mean for you? If you're using PPIs, perhaps it's time to have a chat with your doctor, especially if you've used them for an extended period of time.
h/t CBC News
This post was originally published on Feb. 16, 2016. Millions of people suffer from heartburn, especially as they get older. And when over-the-counter drugs like Tums just can't cure the burning feeling after they eat, people upgrade to heavier-duty drugs called proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs).
You can get some PPIs over-the-counter, like Prilosec, or get a prescription from a doctor for Nexium or Prevacid. Doctors and patients love them because they do the trick for beating back gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD), as heartburn is known medically. Here's why: Heartburn sufferers produce too much stomach acid, which backs up into the throat as you digest your food. PPIs block the production of stomach acid, so you can eat in peace.
And that may be the problem. Stomach acid also protects you from the bad bacteria that can cause infections like pneumonia and food poisoning. And that's not all that can happen if you take a PPI for more than the recommended two to eight weeks. Some studies suggest that PPIs can cause kidney and heart damage. A brand-new study found that PPI use carried a 44 percent increased risk of dementia in those over 75.
Even more surprisingly, PPIs may make your heartburn worse as soon as you get off of them because of the surge in all that stomach acid.
So what can you do to keep heartburn at bay? Try some lifestyle changes: cut back on caffeine, alcohol, and spicy and fatty foods. If you are taking a PPI, talk to your doctor about how long you need to stay on it.