In their study, researchers with the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis wished to address potential adverse events associated with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid.
A number of other studies have linked PPIs to a multitude of serious health consequences, including kidney disease, stomach infections, heart disease, pneumonia, bone fractures, and dementia, leaving the researchers with the question of whether these adverse events also translated to an increased risk of mortality.
The researchers analyzed data on 275,933 people who had been prescribed a PPI and 73,355 people who had been prescribed an H2 blocker, another class of drugs that help reduce stomach acid. Patients were observed between October 2006 and September 2008, and deaths were tracked up to five years.
According to CBS, the researchers determined that patients taking PPIs were 25 percent more likely to die than patients taking H2 blockers – this averages to about one death for every 500 people taking PPIs for a year.
Surprised by the results, researchers attempted to re-analyze the data; however, according to the study’s lead author, Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, “However we sliced the data, analyzed it, there was always a consistent relationship between PPI use and risk of death.”
Al-Aly noted that the study does not mean people taking PPIs should stop taking their medications. Instead, he urged patients who self medicate with over-the-counter PPis consult with their health care provider about the potential pros and cons of such medications.