Journal scan

Acid reflux treatment drugs linked to heightened risk of premature death

US researchers looked at use of proton pump inhibitors.

Drugs used to treat acid reflux are linked to a heightened risk of premature death, according to a new study.

Acid reflux. Picture: Alamy

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the amount of acid made by the stomach and are used to treat acid reflux and stomach ulcers.

A team of researchers in the US performed a longitudinal observational study on data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Over a follow-up period of almost six years, they examined data on 3,288,092 people to compare users and non-users of PPIs.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, also examined data on 349,312 people to compare risk of death between those taking PPIs with those taking another type of drug used to inhibit acid production, called histamine H2 receptor antagonists, or H2 blockers.

They also looked at data on 2,887,030 people to assess risk of premature death for PPI users compared with no PPI and no H2 blockers.


Compared with H2 blocker use, PPI use was associated with a 25% heightened risk of death from all causes.

The researchers also found an increased risk of death when considering PPI use versus no PPI, and an increased risk from PPI use versus no PPI and no H2 blockers.

Research limits

The authors said that the findings may not be generalised for a wider population because most participants were older, white male veterans.

But they still cautioned: 'Limiting PPI use and duration to instances where it is medically indicated may be warranted.'

Xie Y et al (2017) Risk of death among users of Proton Pump Inhibitors: a longitudinal observational cohort study of United States veterans. BMJ Open. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015735



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