Your Heartburn Medication Could Be Deadly, But No One Quite Knows Why

July 24, 2017 | Crandall & Pera Law
Your Heartburn Medication Could Be Deadly, But No One Quite Knows Why

Our firm has always handled defective and dangerous drug litigation, so we pay close attention to studies and reports that are published in reputable news sources and in medical journals. Much of the news lately has been focused on the dangers associated with opioid painkillers, and fentanyl in particular, but a recent piece in the New York Times looked at a study involving heartburn medication. Specifically, the article summarized a study which “compared people who used P.P.I.s [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][proton pump inhibitors] with those who used H2 receptor antagonists” for relief of heartburn and acid reflux. Based on the research, patients who take PPI-based medications, like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid, were at a greater risk of death than those who took H2 receptor drugs, like Zantac or Pepcid.

Understanding the study

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked at case histories of almost 350,000 people listed in the VA healthcare system. Of those cases, 275,933 people used PPIs, and 73,355 used H2 blockers, all between 2006 and 2008. The team then looked at the number of deaths over the next few years (a median of 5.71, per the study), and discovered that PPI users had a 25% increased chance of dying over patients who used H2 blockers. The risk increased for users depending on how long they took the medication.

What is causing this increase?

The truth is, no one is quite sure. It could be the way a body metabolizes vitamins and minerals, or it could be related to the bacteria in our stomachs. As Dr. Folasade P. May explained to CBS News, "If the group taking PPIs was dying more often, what were they dying of?... Are they dying of heart disease, losing weight, or dying from a mix of medical problems? The PPI group was older and sicker. I would argue if you follow an older, sicker population, then they're likely to have more deaths anyway.” The research team stressed that this correlation, not causation: in other words, they will not say that PPI drugs are the definitive reason behind people dying – merely that users die more often than non-users.

Should I be worried about my heartburn medication?

Not necessarily. If you are prescribed a PPI medication for a serious condition, like a bleeding ulcer, then you should not stop taking the drugs without first consulting your doctor. If you are a regular user of OTC medications with PPIs, you should seek medical advice, anyway; your heartburn or reflux could indicate a more serious condition. However, you should be aware that PPIs do have a list of potentially serious side effects associated with them. These risks include an increased chance of:  
    • Stroke
    • Kidney disease
    • Susceptibility to infections like C. diff and pneumonia
    • Bone fractures
    • Dementia
  If you regularly take a medication with the proton pump inhibitor, speak with your doctor about your options. If you or a loved one takes a PPI, but you were not told of the potential side effects, speak with a defective drug attorney right away. Crandall & Pera Law is a premier medical malpractice law firm serving clients throughout Ohio and Kentucky. To speak with an experienced dangerous drug lawyer about your case, please fill out this contact form to request a consultation. You can also call out Ohio team at 877.686.8879, or our Kentucky team at 877.651.7764.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]