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Popular Heartburn Medicine Linked to Increased Risk of Death

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

As a commonly used over-the-counter and prescription drug, Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are meant to remedy heartburn and prevent the formation of ulcers in the stomach and esophagus. Common names are Nexium, Prilosec, Dexilant, Protonix, Aciphex, and Prevacid. PPIs function by blocking the production of the stomach enzyme responsible for producing the acid that causes ulcers. Despite the apparent benefits of PPIs, a recent study published in British Medical Journal Open found that use of PPIs can lead to an increased risk of death.

Prior research on the effects of PPIs has found that it has numerous non-fatal consequences. Among the side effects, research has shown that use of PPIs is linked to kidney disease, dementia, and pneumonia. Additionally, long-term use of the drug was associated with cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of osteoporotic fractures, including hip and spine fractures. Yet, a link between the use of PPIs and risk of death was not sufficiently established until now.

 Published just last month in the BMJ Open, this study analyzed the effects of PPI usage among military veterans. Using information available from the Veterans Affair database, researchers were able to identify which patients were taking PPIs. Based on this data, the patients were sorted into three categories: PPIs users, those who took other forms of acid-suppressing drugs, and those who never took any form of acid-suppressing drugs. Researchers compared the categories and found that PPI usage was associated with an increased risk of death. Compared to the patients who took other forms of acid-suppressing drugs, PPI users had a 25% increase in risk of death. In addition, PPI users had a 15% increase in risk of death compared to patients who never took any form of acid-suppressing drugs. While this study cannot explain the reason for an increase in risk of death among PPI users, it does establish a consistent relationship and also paves the way for future research into this topic.

Proton pump inhibitors are the most frequent type of treatment used to remedy heartburn, and they are made easily accessible to patients throughout the U.S. This is why the recently discovered dangers of PPIs are so alarming. If you or your loved has experienced any of the side effects as a result of long-term usage of PPIs, it is advised you seek legal counsel.

Contact us at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP for a consultation.

By: Giselle Cornejo

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