Dementia: Could Heartburn Medications Increase The Risk?

First Posted: Feb 15, 2016 06:28 PM EST

Heartburn medications may be linked to a higher risk of dementia, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that proton-pump inhibiting drugs that are typically used to control heartburn may be linked to cognitive decline. So far, they have found a potential increased risk via the brands Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec, with findings showing that people 75 and older who regularly take PPIs had a 44 percent increased risk of dementia when compared to seniors not taking the drugs. However, researchers caution that the risk is only considered an "association" at this time until more inclusive evidence can be produced. 

"The teaching for many years was that these drugs were quite safe," said John Clarke, a gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, via NPR, who was not involved in the study. "But there is data that's emerging that suggests PPIs may not be as safe as we think they are."

At this time, more than 15 million Americans were estimated to use PPIs in 2013, at a total cost of more than $10 billion, accoarding to a report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics--many of which are avaialble over-the counter. 

"To evaluate cause-and-effect relationships between long-term PPI use and possible effects on cognition in the elderly, randomized, prospective clinical trials are needed," said corresponding author Britta Haenisch, from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, vis CBS News.

In the meantime, "Clinicians should follow guidelines for PPI prescription, to avoid overprescribing PPIs and inappropriate use," Haenisch said.

The study is published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

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