Drugs Taken to Treat Heartburn Potentially Increase Risk of Early Death

A new study reveals proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) increase risk of an early death by 25%

A study released by the University of Washington School of Medicine monitored two groups of individuals: individuals who took proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) and those who took histamine H2 receptor antagonists (H2 blockers).

People who took PPIs to combat heartburn overall experienced a 25% heightened risk of death from any cause.

Senior research author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly explained that the research demonstrates the longer an individual uses PPIs, the higher the risk is.

Key data from the study came from the Veteran’s Association medical record system, which enabled researchers to observe a large number of patients over a significant period of time (roughly six years).

The scientific reason for the link between PPIs and early death is not known, although it is suggested that these drugs may change how genes “express themselves”.

Drug companies speak out in defense of their drugs, study’s findings questioned

AstraZeneca, a global drug company that produces two popular PPI products that come over-the-counter and prescription-strength, issued a statement following the study’s release.

“We are confident in the safety and efficacy of Nexium and Prilosec when sued in accordance with the FDA approved label, which has been established through numerous clinical trials.”

Anita Brikman, senior vice president at Consumer Healthcare Products, said: “[the study] did not look at OTC products, rather, it only involved prescription [PPIs] which are typically used at higher doses and for longer durations. This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn.”

The Science Media Centre, a UK non-profit organization, commented that as the study used primarily the records of older veterans as a basis for their data, cannot concretely prove that PPIs increase the risk of death, and it is likely many of the individuals studied died of other pre-existing conditions.

The study’s authors note that they only observed individuals taking prescription-strength PPIs and that their study does not prove cause and effect.