ANU Study Heartburn Drugs. A recent study conducted by scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) found that people who use heartburn drugs, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), have a 70 percent increased chance of developing infectious gastroenteritis.
Dr. Yingxi Chen led the research at ANU that discovered the connection between the heartburn medications and gastroenteritis, often called gastro. The illness, that may require hospitalization, causes over 13 million “lost days of work” in Australia every year.
Dr. Chen said that individuals over 45 years-of-age were especially susceptible to developing gastro as a result of using heartburn medication. PPIs manipulate the stomach into producing less acid, therefore, some bacteria and viruses are not killed off in the body before triggering gastro, according to Xinhuanet News – Asia & Pacific Edition.
“We found that taking PPIs increased the risk of hospitalization with infectious gastroenteritis by up to 70 percent because they significantly reduce the amount of acid made by [the] stomach, which increases the risk of infectious gastro,” Chen said.
PPIs are one of the most popular and widely-used gastric acid suppressants in the world, with almost 20 million prescription filled yearly in Australia alone, reports the ANU.
It was vital for those taking heartburn suppressants to understand the risks linked with the medicine, remarked Chen.
“There is no doubt that PPIs are an effective treatment for acid reflux and heartburn. However, clinicians and the patients using them should be fully aware of the side effects when considering PPI use and dosage,” said Chen.
“The elderly and those with chronic bowel problems are most at risk. Those patients should be having a conversation with their doctor to ensure that they are on [the] right dose and that these drugs are the right fit for them,” Chen said, Xinhuanet News reports.
Personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are actively reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been injured by drugs, including heartburn medication.
Overprescribing of PPIs
A German study suggests that doctors should avoid overprescribing. “Clinicians should follow guidelines for PPI prescription to avoid overprescribing PPIs and inappropriate use,” said Britta Haenisch from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn. JAMA (Journal of American Medicine Association) Internal Medicine published in January  showed that as many as 70 percent of PPI prescriptions are inappropriate, and 25 percent of long-term users could stop taking the drugs without experiencing heartburn or acid reflux.
PPIs are sold over-the-counter in the United States. Dr. Arun Swaminath, director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says the German study does not show whether PPIs are available over-the-counter in Germany. If so, certain risks may be overestimated in the study. “However, I think the point here is that for some patients, weaning off PPIs is reasonable and they should make this decision with their doctors,” he said, according to HealthDay.
For a professor of medicine with the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and a spokesman for the American Federation for Aging Research, Dr. Malaz Boustani, the study will have an impact on his recommendations as a healthcare provider. “I’m going to disclose the finding to my patients and then let them decide whether they will take the risk or not,” he said, as reported to HealthDay.
Heartburn Medication Side Effects
Over the past several years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued numerous warnings concerning long-term use of PPIs, the popular class of acid reflux medications.
Nexium (esomeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), and Prilosec (omeprazole), can have severe side effects, reports the New York Times. They “are not the benign drugs the public thinks they are,” according to Dr. Shoshana J. Herzig of Harvard Medical School.
Heartburn is what a person experiences when stomach acid splashes up and out of the stomach, according to WebMD. The term “heartburn” is on occasion used interchangeably with “acid reflux.” Stomach acid plays a vital role in the breakdown and the absorption of nutrients. It also kills bacteria and microbes, reports the Times. Daily use of acid-suppressing drugs such as PPIs over the long-term may disrupt these processes and make the users more susceptible to nutritional deficits and infections.
PPIs may also interact with other medications. The FDA has warned stroke and heart patients that Prilosec weakens the effectiveness of the anticoagulant drug Plavix (clopidogrel).
The occasional taking of antacids like Rolaids, Tums, Pepto-Bismol, or milk of magnesia to treat heartburn is unlikely to have adverse effects, says the Times. “People with conditions like Barrett’s esophagus should be on long-term acid suppression,” says Dr. Herzig. But most people with acid reflux and heartburn should not be on PPIs long-term, according to Dr. Herzig.
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