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Studies Link Heartburn Medications to Risk of Kidney Damage Dementia

Sep 20, 2016

Possible risks of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid, may include kidney damage and dementia, research suggests. PPIs are a common class of heartburn medications that work by reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach. The findings in recent research underscore the importance of only using PPIs when necessary to avoid any potential side effects.

JAMA Neurology published a study in February suggesting that the use of PPIs was associated with an increased risk of dementia. Researchers analyzed records from 73,679 participants ages 75 and older from 2004 and 2011. Authors defined regular PPI users as individuals who had at least one prescription every four or five months over an 18-month period. These individuals totaled 2,950. Overall, regular PPI use was linked to a 44 percent increased risk of dementia.

Two studies this year suggest that PPIs may increase the likelihood of kidney damage. In January, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study suggesting that PPI users were 20 to 50 percent more likely to experience chronic kidney disease compared to non-users. Increased dosage was linked to a higher risk; patients with a twice daily dose had a 46 percent increased risk compared to 15 percent for those with a once daily dose.

PPIs were also linked to an increased risk of kidney damage in another recent study, published April in the American Society of Nephrology. Authors found that, overall, PPI use was linked to a 28 percent increased risk of chronic kidney disease. Researchers compared 170,000 new PPI users to 20,000 new users of H2 receptor blockers, another class of medications used to reduce stomach acid.

The studies only indicate a correlation, or relationship. They do not prove that PPIs caused kidney damage or dementia. However, experts agree that the findings are an important reminder than PPIs should not be overused or overprescribed; they should only be used when patients have a medical need.

Dr. Kenneth R. DeVault, president of the American College of Gastroenterology and chair of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, told CBS News that patients can make certain lifestyle changes to mitigate heartburn symptoms. These steps include: losing weight, avoiding high fat foods, avoid eating late at night and elevating the head of the bed on six to eight inch blocks.

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