June 11, 2015 — Some of the most popular heartburn medications in the world have been linked to a higher risk of heart attack, according to a new study published in PLOS One.
Researchers from Stanford University used a new mathematical approach to analyze data in 2.9 million electronic medical records. Had this sophisticated data-mining technology been available, the researchers said they “could have flagged this risk as early as the year 2000.”
Heartburn medications in the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) class, such as Prilosec and Prevacid, were associated with a 16-21% increased risk of heart attack and a doubled risk of cardiovascular mortality.
No risk of heart attack was seen in patients on other types of heartburn medications, such as Zantac and Pepcid, which work differently.
The authors of the study hypothesized that PPIs increased the risk of heart problems because they reduce amounts of nitric oxide produced in cells that line blood vessels throughout the body, including the heart. Other studies have noticed higher rates of heart attack in patients with low nitric oxide levels.
Because some PPIs are now available over-the-counter, researchers recommended telling a doctor if you take one of these medications for more than two weeks. They also said “patients should think about their risks and benefits and should discuss their risk with their doctors.”
Heartburn mediations are some of the most widely-used pharmaceuticals in the world, generating roughly $14 billion in sales every year. Approximately one out of every 15 people in the United States (20 million) use a PPI every year.
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