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Heartburn Drugs Linked to Greater Risk of Death: Study

July 6, 2017 — A new study has found up to a 50% increased risk of death for long-term users of heartburn medications in the Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) class, such as Nexium and Prilosec.

The study was published in BMJ Open by Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a research team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

Overall, PPIs were associated with a 25% increased risk of death compared to another class of heartburn drugs called H2-blockers, which are sold under brand-names like Pepcid, Tagamet, or Zantac.

The researchers estimated 1 extra death per 500 people on a PPI for a year instead of an H2-blocker. According to Dr. Al-Aly:

“When we compared patients taking H2 blockers with those taking PPIs for 1 to 2 years, we found those on PPIs had a 50% increased risk of dying over the next 5 years.”

Dr. Al-Aly said many patients falsely believe that heartburn drugs are safe because they are sold over-the-counter without a prescription. But with over 15 million Americans on Nexium alone, the increased risk could translate to thousands of excess deaths per year, he said.

The study’s conclusions were based on nearly 6 years of data from over 276,000 U.S. military veterans who used a PPI heartburn medication between October 2006 and September 2008.

Heartburn medications in the PPI class include:

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