Anti-Heartburn Drugs Linked to Stomach Infection Risk

nexium-esomeprazoleJanuary 9, 2017 — Patients on long-term treatment with anti-heartburn drugs like Nexium and Prilosec are significantly more likely to develop stomach infections, according to a new study.

Nexium and Prilosec belong to a class of antacids known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs). Another class known as H2-blockers (H2RA) include heartburn drugs like Pepcid and Zantac.

Dr. Thomas MacDonald, professor at the University of Dundee in Scotland, and his team analyzed medical records on 188,323 people who took a heartburn medication between 1999 and 2013.

Patients who took heartburn medications were 70% more likely to be diagnose with C. difficile, and 3.7-times more likely to develop stomach infections with Campylobacter.

These bacteria often cause stomach infections in people who are very sick. Campylobacter is usually associated with food poisoning. C. diff is a growing problem in hospitals.

Heartburn drugs reduce stomach acid, which can make patients more vulnerable to stomach infections. The FDA has already warned that patients on heartburn drugs with chronic diarrhea may have C. diff.

The study was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology on January 5.

Its findings are backed up by a published last year in the journal Gut and Liver — 6.7% of PPI patients developed C. diff infections, vs. 1.8% of patients on H2-blocker heartburn drugs.

C. diff infections are one of the most common hospital-acquired infections, and the problem is getting worse. The epidemic is mostly blamed on overuse of antibiotics and growing resistance, but heartburn drugs may also be playing a role.

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