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Proton pump inhibitors

Warning: Common acid-suppressing PPI drugs are over-used and have serious health risks

Thursday, May 27, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: proton pump inhibitors, health risks, health news

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(NaturalNews) Have heartburn occasionally? Suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms? Mention your indigestion to a pharmacist and the odds are you'll be directed to proton pump inhibitor (PPI) drugs that are now sold over the counter. Or, if you tell your doctor about your heartburn problems, you'll most likely be given a prescription for an even stronger dose of a PPI. These Big Pharma profit making drugs (which include Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Aciphex and Protonix) are pushed for indigestion because they are supposedly stronger and faster acting than other older acid suppressing and acid neutralizing meds.

But there are problems with these widely hyped drugs. According to a series of reports just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, not only are PPIs being over-prescribed and over-used but they are fraught with health dangers.

"A staggering 113.4 million prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors are filled each year, making this class of drugs, at $13.9 billion in sales, the third highest seller in the United States," Mitchell H. Katz, M.D., of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, wrote in an editorial accompanying the reports.

Dr. Katz pointed out that these drugs can be effective treatments for inflammation of the esophagus, ulcers and GERD -- but there is evidence that between 53 percent and 69 percent of PPIs are being prescribed inappropriately. What's more, doctors are too often pushing these drugs without considering potential adverse side effects.

Bottom line: PPIs are often used to treat plain old common indigestion (dyspepsia) in the absence of ulcers, inflammation or severe GERD. "That proton pump inhibitors relieve dyspepsia is without question, but at what cost (and I do not mean financial)?" Dr. Katz asked.

So what specifically is the downside to acid-suppressing PPIs? The new reports in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine offer some disturbing answers to that question:

• Shelly L. Gray, Pharm.D., of the University of Washington and colleagues reported that PPIs increase the risk of fractured bones in women after menopause. They followed 161,806 women between ages 50 and 79 in the Women's Health Initiative Study for eight years and found those taking PPIS had an increased risk of spine and forearm or wrist fractures in addition to more total fractures.

• Michael D. Howell, M.D., M.P.H., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School and fellow researchers studied the records of more than 100,000 patients discharged from hospitals over a five year period. Daily PPI use, they discovered, was linked to an estimated 74 percent increase in infections due to Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a bacterium that can cause life-threatening diarrhea and inflammation of the colon.

• Another group of researchers headed by Amy Linsky, M.D., of Boston Medical Center, also found a worrisome link between C. difficile and PPIs. They investigated approximately 1,200 patients being treated for C. difficile and documented a 42 percent increased risk of recurrence with the infection if PPIs were used.

"Harm will result if these commonly used medications are prescribed for conditions for which there is no benefit, such as non-ulcer dyspepsia," Deborah Grady, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Rita F. Redberg, M.D., also of the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of the Archives of Internal Medicine, wrote in another editorial.

There's actually some good news related to the series of reports discussing the dangers of PPIs and their overuse. The articles are part of the prestigious medical journal's new series called "Less Is More" which is similar in some ways to the kind of articles NaturalNews has been publishing for years -- the journal is launching investigations into how health can be worse when patients receive more medical services.

"Evidence suggests that providing excessive health care service is most likely to occur in situations in which there is not strong evidence to document the benefit and harms of the service," Dr. Grady and Dr. Redberg stated in their editorial. "The Archives aims to address this deficit by publishing articles that provide evidence that performing 'more' of certain health care activities results in 'less' health."

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