Tags: heartburn | meds | risks | drugs | hospitalization | reflux

Heartburn Medicines Raise Hospitalization Risks: Study

Heartburn Medicines Raise Hospitalization Risks: Study
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By    |   Monday, 13 November 2017 03:15 PM

You might want to think twice the next time painful heartburn have you reaching for common anti-reflux medications from supermarket or drugstore shelves. Although the drugs taken by millions of Americans are effective, they also increase the risk of hospitalization for stomach infections, new research shows.

Doctors often prescribe highly efficacious medicines known as PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) because they’re extremely good at reducing production of gastric acids.

“There’s no doubt PPIs are an effective treatment for reflux and heartburn,” says Dr. Yingxi Chen. “[But] clinicians and patients should be fully aware of the side effects when considering PPI use and dosage.”

Chen, a medical researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, recently completed a study published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS ONE that found people who take PPIs are 70 percent more likely to be hospitalized — sometimes years later — with infectious gastroenteritis.

“We found taking PPIs increased risk of hospitalization with infectious gastroenteritis by up to 70 percent because they (PPIs) significantly reduce the amount of acid made by the stomach, which increases the risk of infectious gastro,” Chen explains.

In other words, reducing stomach acid dramatically by taking PPIs makes life much more comfortable in the short term, but could lead to problems down the road that require medical care.

The study tracked 39,019 people over age 45 (57.3 percent were women) who had used PPIs for almost four years.

As a result of the study findings, Chen says that PPI users — particularly the elderly and people with bowel problems — “should be having conversations with their doctors to ensure they’re on the right dose and that these drugs are the right fit for them.”

Not all acid-fighting treatments are PPIs, which are used by an estimated 15 million Americans. Heartburn meds — including PPIs and other treatments — are available over the counter or by prescription. Common over-the-counter (OTC) PPIs include Prevacid, Prilosec, and Nexium.

According to the Mayo Clinic: “Both acid reflux and heartburn are common digestive conditions that many people experience from time to time. When these signs and symptoms occur at least twice each week or interfere with your daily life, or when your doctor can see damage to your esophagus, you may be diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).”

This condition is usually treated successfully by prescribed medications (including PPIs). When drugs fail, doctors may perform surgery to correct the problem.

But most people manage the discomfort of GERD with lifestyle changes — including dietary modifications to limit foods and eating habits that contribute to the problem — and over-the-counter medications.

Reflux expert Dr. Timothy Pfanner, an internal medicine professor at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in College Station, Texas, notes that untreated heartburn can lead to Barrett's esophagus, a cancer precursor.

And esophageal cancer diagnoses have been sharply on the rise in the United States in recent years.

Your best bet: Talk to your doctor about your options.

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Millions of Americans take heartburn medications to treat reflux. But while the drugs taken by millions of Americans are very effective, they also increase the risk of hospitalization for stomach infections, new research shows. Here's what you need to know.
heartburn, meds, risks, drugs, hospitalization, reflux
Monday, 13 November 2017 03:15 PM
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