Originally published July 29 2015
Proton-pump inhibitor drugs for heartburn linked to heart attacks
by Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) New research published in the journal PLOS ONE calls into question the safety and effectiveness of a popular class of pharmaceutical drugs used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, as well as its less extreme companion acid reflux. Researchers found that proton-pump inhibitors, or PPIs, which millions of Americans rely on to treat heartburn symptoms, also increase general users' risk of heart disease.
It was previously believed that PPIs only increased heart attack risk in a small minority of users with preexisting coronary artery disease who take the drugs to prevent future heart attacks. But this assessment has turned out to be wildly inaccurate, as all PPI users are at increased risk of heart attack from the drugs, according to the data.
An investigative team comprised of researchers mostly from California evaluated two large databases, the Stanford Translational Research Integrated Database Environment (STRIDE) and Practice Fusion, to compile data on over 16 million clinical documents of 2.9 million individuals. From this, the team determined that GERD patients exposed to PPIs had at least a 16% increased risk of heart attack compared to others not taking the drugs.
Worse is the cardiovascular mortality risk associated with PPI use, which was found to be twofold compared to others not taking the drugs. This risk is equally present regardless of whether or not PPI users also take clopidogrel (Plavix), an antiplatelet drug prescribed for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes and in the treatment peripheral vascular disease and claudication.
"Our report raises concerns that these drugs – which are available over the counter and are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world – may not be as safe as we previously assumed," wrote Dr. Nicholas Leeper, a vascular surgeon and investigator of the study, about its findings.
PPIs inhibit stomach acid production, damaging immunity and triggering nutrient deficiencies The findings are consistent with those of earlier studies linking PPI use to increased risk of myocardial infarction in clopidogrel users, except that it's now clear that PPIs are equally as damaging to non-users of clopidogrel. In other words, PPIs are inherently high-risk from a cardiovascular standpoint, though their mechanism of harm is still largely unknown.
Understanding how PPIs work does provide some clearer insight, though. These drugs act directly on gastric parietal cells to keep them from producing acid in the stomach, acid that's needed by the body to digest food and absorb nutrients. Stomach acid also helps protect the gastrointestinal tract against infection, a lack of which leaves the body prone to disease.
Long-term use of PPIs has previously been shown to trigger nutrient deficiencies, including depletion of vitamin B12 and magnesium. These deficiencies, if left unchecked, can then lead to major health conditions like bone loss and osteoporosis, atrophic gastritis, bacterial colitis and a whole lot more.
"By looking at data from people who were given PPI drugs primarily for acid reflux and had no prior history of heart disease, our data-mining pipeline signals an association with a higher rate of heart attacks," added Nigam H. Shah, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Stanford, and one of the study's primary authors.
"Our results demonstrate that PPIs appear to be associated with elevated risk of heart attack in the general population."
Dr. Leeper agrees, stating that PPIs may not be as safe as previously believed, and that current users need to discus with their doctors the full risk-benefit profile before continuing the drug regimen.
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