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Studies Question the Safety of Proton Pump Inhibitors

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San Diego, CAIn recent months, multiple studies questioning the safety of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been published. The most recent study to examine the risk of proton pump inhibitor side effects suggests an association between the medication and increased mortality in older patients. Meanwhile, patients are being cautioned that PPIs should not be taken long-term.

The most recent study, conducted in Finland and published as a letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine and cited in Pulse on 9/30/10 examined data from patients in nursing homes or long-term hospital care. Researchers found up to 82 percent increased mortality in patients who were taking proton pump inhibitors, compared with those who were not taking them. They suggested the increased risk of mortality may be due to the fact that elderly patients are frailer and more susceptible to complications linked to proton pump inhibitors.

Other studies of proton pump inhibitors suggested a link between the medications and an increased risk of a number of conditions, including fractures, C. difficile infection and community-acquired pneumonia.

A different study suggested patients who used PPIs and clopidogrel had an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Doctors who treat older patients sounded the alarm about elderly patients being put on Proton Pump Inhibitors for too long. According to an article published on 8/11/10 on blogs.nytimes.com, some doctors who work in geriatric wards had patients who took proton pump inhibitors for up to 15 years.

The US Food and Drug Administration warns that patients over the age of 50 face an increased risk of fracture if they use the acid-reducing medication for longer than one year. Also of concern is that proton pump inhibitors may be over-prescribed and overused in hospitals, according to a 2006 study conducted at the University of Michigan Hospital.

Elderly patients who have taken proton pump inhibitors for longer than a year should speak to their doctor if they have any concern about the increased risk of proton pump inhibitor side effects. They should not discontinue medication without first speaking to a doctor.

Among drugs in the proton pump inhibitor class are Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec and Protonix. An FDA warning about the risk of fractures includes both prescription and over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors.

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