Heartburn drugs tied to increased risk of early death, study says – fox6now.com
At prescription strength, proton-pump inhibitors are associated with a potential 25% increased risk of early death from any cause, suggests new research published Monday in the British Medical Journal Open.
This study did not examine over-the-counter proton-pump inhibitors or particular brands of prescription-strength drugs.
The drugs, known as PPIs, suppress excess acid in the stomach. Generally, prescription formulas are taken by patients with severe conditions for long periods, while lower-dose over-the-counter formulas are approved for only short-term use by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The researchers note that their study does not prove cause and effect.
Previous research has linked proton-pump inhibitors to an increased risk of poor health, according to senior author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of the Washington University School of Medicine. “A number of studies reported that use (of these drugs) is associated with a number of adverse events including kidney disease, fractures, pneumonia, dementia, C. diff infections and cardiovascular disease,” he said.
Al-Aly and his co-authors “asked the simple question: Does that translate to increased risk of death?” To answer it, they looked at national US Department of Veterans Affairs data on about 3.5 million people.
“The VA has the largest integrated electronic medical record system in the world,” Al-Aly said. “This enabled us to look at a large number of patients and follow them up for about six years to examine our research questions.”
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. They also made other comparisons, including people who used proton-pump inhibitors versus people who did not take either H2 blockers or PPIs.
People who used proton-pump inhibitors experienced a 25% heightened risk of death from all causes compared with people taking H2 blockers, the researchers estimated.
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 longer patients used PPIs, the higher their risk of early death, he added.
When comparing users of proton-pump inhibitors with non-users of PPIs or H2 blockers, the same 25% higher risk level was seen, the analysis indicates.
“In our studies, however we looked at the data, there was always a consistent relationship between (proton-pump inhibitor) use and the risk of death,” Al-Aly said.
Al-Aly and his co-authors say the biological reason for a link between PPIs and increased risk of early death is not clear. Evidence suggests that these drugs change how genes express themselves, increasing some DNA activities while decreasing others. It is these genetic differences that may contribute to earlier deaths.
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 say that limiting a patient’s use of these drugs “to instances and durations where it is medically indicated may be warranted.”