Long-term heartburn medication use tied to higher risk of early death

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PPI drugs are widely considered safe in the short term — under two months.

Previous studies suggest long-term use is associated with problems including kidney damage, C. difficile infections, bone fractures and dementia.





Recognizing those risks, Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and his colleagues checked to see if the drugs are also associated with higher risk of death.

“We quantitated the risk of death, and it was about 25 per cent,” Al-Aly said in an interview. “What that really translates to is that if 500 patients took the medication for about a year, then there would be one excess death that could be attributed to using this class of medication called PPI.”

Al-Aly called the risk small but significant since such a large number of people in the U.S. and Canada are on these medications.

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To conduct the study, researchers combed through medical records of about 275,000 new users of PPI drugs and nearly 75,000 people who started another class of drugs, called H2 blockers, to reduce stomach acid. The administrative data came from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and researchers followed half the participants for at least five years.



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