US study finds that people who are taking proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), found in common heartburn and indigestion medications, have a slightly higher risk of dying early.
PPI’s decrease the acid in the stomach and is used often used as treatment for heartburn. It’s even used as a protective measure for potential stomach ulcers.
There is no proof in the study that the cause for the increased chance of death is directly because of the PPI drugs or because of the underlying health issues that PPI is used in conjunction to treat. Scientists suggest not stopping the PPI meds without first consulting your doctor, as the you may cause more harm than good, such as in cases pertaining to stomach bleeds.
Origins of the study
The study was conducted by researchers from VA Saint Louis Health Care System at Washington University School of Medicine and Saint Louis University. The data was provided by US Department of Veterans Affairs.
The study, although covered well by UK media sources, the outlets didn’t express how limited the scope of the study was. The information and the depth of the study was very limited.
Bulk of the study
Using the US Department of Veteran Affairs national database, researchers identified 349,312 people (mostly males) who had been prescribed PPI’s and H2 blockers (acid suppression therapies) between 2006 and 2008.
They correlated it with the patients who had died within a 6-year period of receiving the medication. The researchers were looking for signs whether the drug has any relation to death. They took into consideration how long the drugs were used.
Researchers also took into account various factors such as age, gender, race and any other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension.
It seems that the long use of PPI drugs, increase the chances of early death. They also found that treatment with only H2 blockers without PPI then there won’t be much a difference. This applied to people with and without gastrointestinal problems.
The limitations included the fact the study was conducted on mostly white American older males, deaths cannot be directly linked to PPI’s, most of the deaths occurred in the first year, follow-up only covered a five-year period and all drugs were prescribed in outpatient settings.
The study has not researched nor identified if all PPI drugs have this impact or if there are specific brands that are less harmful than others.
All in all, the study shows there is an area of concern, however it needs further comprehensive examination and researcher. If you’re concerned, discuss with your doctor possible alternative treatment options.