Millions of Americans suffer from heartburn, a condition where stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and creates an uncomfortable burning sensation. To help manage heartburn, many Americans use popular heartburn medications called Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), but a recent study revealed these drugs are incredibly dangerous.
How PPIs Work
PPIs work by targeting the enzyme in the stomach’s lining that creates acid, and preventing the enzymes from making more acid. This reduces the amount of acid in the stomach, thereby relieving heartburn.
However, PPIs have been linked to a variety of permanent and life-threatening side effects. In April 2016, a study published in the Journal Of The American Society Of Nephology found patients who take PPIs had a 28% increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Additionally, the study also determined patients who take PPIs had a 96% increased risk of developing end-stage kidney failure within five years of starting to use the medications. Other health risks linked to PPIs include severe stomach infections, heart disease, osteoporosis, and dementia.
Increased Risk of Death
Because of the increasing number of dangerous side effects, researchers wanted to investigate how these side effects were impacting patients. Researchers from Washington State University School of Medicine analyzed a large patient database to compare death rates among patients who took PPIs with patients who took another class of heartburn medications called H2 Blockers.
Researchers looked at nearly 350,000 patients taking heartburn drugs and tracked them for up to five years. They determined that there was a 25% increased risk of death in patients who took PPIs compared to patients who took H2 Blockers. The researchers also determined that a patient’s risk of death increased with the length of time they took PPIs.
Increased Rate of Stomach Cancer
The past few years have seen the publication of several different studies linking the use of common PPIs like Nexium and Prilosec to serious side effects, but these pale in comparison to the latest study from researchers in the UK.
Researchers looked at patients who took PPIs daily to manage heartburn and discovered they were at a much higher risk of developing stomach cancer. Patients who use PPIs long-term have a 2.4 times greater risk of developing stomach cancer.
The risk of developing stomach cancer also increased with the frequency and duration of use. For patients who took PPIs for over a year, the risk of developing stomach cancer increased five-fold and for patients that took PPIs for three or more years, their risk increased eight-fold.
While this isn’t the first link between PPIs and stomach cancer, this was the first study excluding patients suffering from an infection causing bacteria in the gut that can also cause stomach cancer. The study allowed doctors to look more closely and accurately at the effects of PPIs over time.