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Childhood Asthma Risk Linked to Mother’s PPI Use during Pregnancy

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Expectant mothers who use PPIs are 34 percent more likely to have children who suffer from asthma.

Washington, DCAs many as 80 percent of expectant mothers suffer from heartburn or acid indigestion during pregnancy. Until recently proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid, were thought to be both effective for mom and safe for baby.

New studies, suggest otherwise, however: a mother’s use of PPIs during pregnancy may increase the risk that her child will suffer from asthma by more than a third.

Hundreds of PPI lawsuits about severe kidney damage, dementia and hip fractures are already pending in courts. The developing evidence of harm to unborn children will likely increase the pressure on drug manufacturers to amend their warning labels or face legal consequences.


Studies suggest babies at risk



As reported by Reuters Health, a study published in the journal, Pediatrics examined data from more than 1.6 million participants and concluded that “Pregnant women who used PPIs were 34 percent more likely to have children with asthma than their counterparts who didn’t take these drugs.” The percentage may be even higher since the study followed children only through early childhood, and some asthma cases are diagnosed only years later.

Approximately 8.4 percent of US children suffer from asthma. It is the leading chronic disease in children and is on the rise. Symptoms include recurrent cough, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Left untreated, children with asthma may have less stamina than other children or avoid physical activities. Childhood asthma may also have long-term health and behavioral consequences including obesity, depression and increased absenteeism from school or work.

Correlation is not causation, but the study’s senior author has suggested that pregnant women use caution when taking acid-suppressing drugs, including PPIs. It goes without saying that patients should always be proactive in assessing the benefit/burden ratio of a particular medication. But that’s tough to do without an adequate warning label.

Do drug manufacturers including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Takeda Pharmaceuticals have a legal duty to warn physicians and patients, on behalf of the babies, about the danger of long-term harm?

PPI side effect lawsuits continue to multiply



Childhood asthma is hardly the only health risk associated with PPI use. Hundreds of lawsuits linking Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid to long-term kidney damage have now been consolidated for pre-trial purposes in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey . Research suggests that PPIs may also be linked to an increased risk of fractures, stomach cancer and dementia.

These concerns may ultimately ripen into litigation -- but these are the diseases of old people. In brute financial settlement terms, old people are less expensive for drug companies than new people are. The risk of childhood asthma may prove to be the worst news yet for PPI drug manufacturers. The population affected is very young, the disease is not minor and it may last for a lifetime. Multiply personal suffering by average lifetime times an unknown number of plaintiffs. That could be a very scary number -- scarier even than kidney disease, fractures and the other PPI side effects already on the radar.

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