Millions of people, who suffer from heartburn, take drugs, called proton pump inhibitors, in order to reduce stomach acid.
Doctors may also prescribe these medications, if you have high risks of getting stomach ulcer (for example, if you take low-dose aspirin on a daily basis).
However large cohort study, published in the journal BMJ Open, shows that taking these medicines for a long time may have a link with increased risks of death.
Research involved 350 000 US veterans, whose average age was 61 years. Most of them were men.
Participants had been prescribed therapy to suppress acid production between 2006 and 2008.
Approximately 276 000 people got proton pump inhibitors, while 73 335 individuals received H2 blockers (another drugs, used to treat heartburn).
During five years, scientists looked at death rates among all participants, without considering the main cause of death.
At the same time, a long list of things, which could make influence on the results (like age, race, kidney health and chronic conditions), were taken into account.
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In addition to this, experts compared risks of fatal outcome in PPI users and those, who don't take any medications.
It was found that people, who preferred proton pump inhibitors, have nearly 25% higher risks of death for any reason than H2 blockers users.
In general, 23% of the whole cohort died over the course of research.
Specialists say that how long people take PPIs, also plays a great role. Thus, in study risks for death were higher in those, who took these medicines for one year or longer.
This means that for every 500 people, who swallowed PPI pills during a year, it was one death, which could be potentially prevented, if not prescribed these drugs.
According to the findings, PPI use may be tied to serious health issues, including kidney dysfunction, dementia, osteoporosis and Clostridium difficile infection.
However there are several limitations for this research. First of all, it included mostly white male veterans and the main causes of death stay unknown. Furthermore, long-term death outputs were not examined.
It might be also a difference between patients, who get their PPIs prescribed and those, who buy over-the-counter analogs with lower dose.
So, if you've been prescribed proton pump inhibitors, there is no reason to stop consuming them. Remember that risks of not taking your recommended PPI might be greater than possible risks after its intake.
For medical professionals, it’s worth avoiding overprescribing these drugs and re-assessing person's need for them.
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