Popular heartburn drugs linked to serious disease and cancer risks

Brittany A. Roston - May 30, 2019, 3:23pm CDT
Popular heartburn drugs linked to serious disease and cancer risks

Popular heartburn drugs have been linked to serious health risks, including increased odds of developing stomach cancer, fatal cardiovascular disease, and chronic kidney disease. The concerns involve long-term use of medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which have been previously associated with higher odds of dying prematurely.

The findings are detailed in a study out of the Washington University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, where researchers linked long-term use of these drugs to an increased risk of serious health conditions. The results are particularly concerning in light of the more than 15 million Americans prescribed these drugs.

The risks of cardiovascular and kidney disease, as well as stomach cancer, increased the longer someone took these medications, according to the study; this was true even in instances where the doses were low.

The study involved sifting through medical data gathered from summer 2002 to 2004. More than 214,467 adults prescribed either PPI heartburn medication or a newer class of drugs called H2 blockers were followed for the duration of up to 10 years. Of the more than 157,625 people who had taken PPIs, the study found a 17-percent death risk increase compared to the group taking H2 blockers.

Based on the data, researchers estimated 45 ‘excess deaths’ per 1,000 people that could be attributed to the long-term use of PPI medication. The drugs were linked to deaths that resulted from cardiovascular disease, stomach cancer, and chronic kidney disease.

More than 80-percent of the PPI users were taking low doses, including the kind available to purchase without a prescription. Past research has linked these medications with other serious potential health outcomes, including dementia, pneumonia, and bone fractures.

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