Proton Pump Inhibitors Linked to Higher Risk of Death

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Studies conducted have suggested that the risk of death has increased due to some heartburn drugs.

Some heartburn drugs known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) used by millions of Americans have been linked to an increased risk of death, according to a new study. PPIs, which include a number of popular brands including Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid and others, help acid reflux by reducing stomach acid and are available both over the counter and through prescription. However, these PPIs have
been associated with some serious health risks, causing a wave of Prilosec lawsuits, Nexium lawsuits, and Prevacid lawsuits.

How Do We Know PPIs Are Linked to Increased Risk of Death?

Several other recent studies have linked PPIs to health risks ranging from kidney disease, heart disease and pneumonia to bone fractures and dementia. The most recent study was undertaken by researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who wanted to find out if people who took these PPIs were at a higher risk of dying. They used a large database to compare death rates among users of PPIs with those of H2 blockers, another class of drugs prescribed for those with acid reflux.

The researchers looked at data on 275,933 people who had been prescribed a PPI and 73,355 who had been given H2 blockers between October 2006 and September 2008. They tracked deaths up to five years and found a 25 percent increased risk of death in patients who took a PPI compared with those who took H2 blockers.

How Serious Are These Numbers?

This amounts to one extra death for every 500 people taking PPIs for a year. Researchers said they were even startled by this discovery. They assert that any way they analyzed it, there was “always a consistent relationship” between PPI use and death. Researchers also found a “graded” relationship, which means that the longer patients took the drugs, the higher their risk of death. The findings of this study were published in the journal BMJ Open.

Experts observe that since these drugs are very effective in reducing heartburn, peptic ulcers and bleeding, they have been overprescribed in outpatient as well as in hospital settings. Long-term use of these drugs also has serious side effects including low-bone density, vitamin B12 deficiency, gastrointestinal infections, higher risk of chronic kidney disease, certain types of cancer and even dementia.

What Can Patients Do?

Despite these findings, it is not clear why PPIs are linked to a higher risk for some health conditions. Theories include the possibility that less gastric acid production modifies the environment of the stomach affecting how other drugs such as heart medications are metabolized. Some say PPIs could also affect how iron and other minerals are absorbed. If you are taking PPIs, talk to your doctor about the potential risks you face and the benefits you may derive from taking these medications.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul d’Oliveira
Attorney Paul d’Oliveira has been practicing personal injury and disability law for over 29 years. He started his personal injury law practice in 1989 with two offices in Fall River, MA and East Providence, RI. Today his firm has 15 offices in RI and Southeastern, MA.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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