Researchers provided new evidence that the people who have been taking common drugs for heartburn, ulcers and acid reflux are at higher risk of premature death. A new study warns that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), including drugs Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium and Protonix, contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and upper gastrointestinal cancer.
To date, PPIs are on the list of most used drugs across the U.S., with over 15 million Americans prescribed for the treatment. But researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System want to change this trend.
“Taking PPIs over many months or years is not safe, and now we have a clearer picture of the health conditions associated with long-term PPI use,” Ziyad Al-Aly, study senior author and an assistant professor of medicine at the School of Medicine, said in a statement.
The study, published in the journal The BMJ, states that death risks remain high even when people took PPIs at low doses.
For the study, the researchers analyzed medical records from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The team determined 157,625 people who were prescribed PPIs and 56,842 people taking the acid-suppression drugs known as H2 blockers.
After 10 years of monitoring and data analysis, the researchers found that long-term PPI users had a 17 percent increased risk of death. Death rates for PPIs were 387 per 1,000 people.
“Given the millions of people who take PPIs regularly, this translates into thousands of excess deaths every year,” Al-Aly said.
Most of the PPI-related deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and upper gastrointestinal cancer. Researchers were also surprised that more than half of the people in the study took PPIs without any medical condition or needs.
“PPIs sold over the counter should have a clearer warning about potential for significant health risks, as well as a clearer warning about the need to limit length of use, generally not to exceed 14 days,” Al-Aly said. “People who feel the need to take over-the-counter PPIs longer than this need to see their doctors.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expressed interest in the study and the researchers plan to continue to analyze other health effects related to PPIs.