The long-term medication of certain heartburn drugs would likely have a higher risk of early death. These include medications such as Omeprazole (Losec), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and, at a lower dose, the over-the-counter drug Olex.
These drugs are known as proton-pump inhibitors. They are taken to lessen the symptoms of heartburn, ulcer and other gastrointestinal problems. They could reduce the amount of acid in the stomach by turning off the pumps that generate acid in the stomach. The short-term use of these drugs could take about two months. Meanwhile, the long-term use could reach to one year.
Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that they quantitated the risk of death and it was about 25 percent. He further said that what 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 known as PPI. Dr. Al-Aly described the risk as small yet significant because many people in the United States and Canada take these medications, according to CBC News.
In the study, the researchers examine people who took proton-pump inhibitors and compared them to those who took another drug known as histamine H2 receptor antagonists or H2 blockers. They also compared people who took proton-pump inhibitors with people who did not take either H2 blockers or PPIs.
The results showed that people who took the proton-pump inhibitors had a 25 percent greater risk of death compared to those who took the H2 blockers. They also found that when comparing users of proton-pump inhibitors with non-users of PPIs or H2 blockers, there was still 25 percent higher risk of death.
Dr. Al-Aly said there was always a consistent relationship between proton-pump inhibitor use and the risk of death. The reason why this class of drugs increases the risk of early death is unclear. On the other hand, evidence indicates that these drugs alter how genes express themselves. Some of the DNA activities increase while others are decreased. These genetic differences may lead to earlier deaths, as CNN noted.
The researchers also associated these drugs with a host of adverse events. They recommend limiting the use of drugs only when medically necessary.