Indigestion pills known to reduce acid can cause early death

Taking drugs commonly prescribed to treat heartburn, indigestion and other stomach problems for a long time may increase the risk of death by about 50 per cent, a study warns.

They also found an increased risk of death when considering PPI use versus no PPI and an increased risk from PPI use versus no PPI and no H2 blocker use. Other recent studies have linked PPIs to a range of potential health risks including kidney disease, stomach infections, heart disease, pneumonia, bone fractures, and dementia.

The researchers note that their study does not prove cause and effect.

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

The team compared people who took proton-pump inhibitors with those who took another type of drug that reduces stomach acid: histamine H2 receptor antagonists, known as H2 blockers.

To conduct the study, researchers combed through medical records of about 275,000 new users of PPI drugs and almost 75,000 people who started another class of drugs, called H2 blockers, to reduce stomach acid.

'They are an effective and appropriately safe way to provide short-term relief from heartburn and indigestion, if used in accordance with the clear on-pack instructions and the patient information leaflet inside'.

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People who take the drugs should not immediately stop doing so, Al-Aly says.

In the study detailed in BMJ Open, the team examined medical data from some 275,000 PPI users and nearly 75,000 people who were given H2 blockers, a different category of medicines prescribed for reducing stomach acid.

"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", says Al-Aly. They say that limited use only when medically necessary is best.

Further, the risk rose steadily the longer people used the drugs. According to the study, the odds of death among people taking PPIs and H2 blocker groups for 30 days was not significantly different.

For every 500 people taking PPIs for a year, there is one extra death that would not have otherwise occurred, researchers said. "There needs to be periodic reassessments as to whether people need to be on these". The Food and Drug Administration recommends taking PPIs no longer than four weeks before consulting a doctor. "And I would want my doctor to be monitoring me carefully and take me off it the moment it was no longer needed". He reviewed the new findings. "If there isn't a compelling reason to take a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), it would be worth trying lower-risk strategies instead".

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".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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