Popular Heartburn Meds Tied to Heart Attack Risk
But don't stop taking proton pump inhibitors based on this study, expert says
By Amy Norton
WEDNESDAY, June 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- People who use certain heartburn drugs for a long period of time may have a slightly heightened risk of suffering a heart attack, a new study suggests.
Using medical records from nearly 300,000 U.S. adults with acid reflux disease (commonly called heartburn), researchers found that the risk of heart attack was slightly elevated among those using proton pump inhibitors.
Proton pump inhibitors are a group of acid-suppressing drugs that include brand-names such as Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium. In 2009, they were the third most commonly used type of drug in the United States, the researchers said.
The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, does not prove the drugs cause heart attack. And experts were divided over what to make of the connection.
Another class of heartburn drug -- so-called H2-blockers -- was not linked to any increase in heart attack risk, the study authors noted.
Those medications include brands like Zantac, Pepcid and Tagamet.
Some said the findings add to the list of risks linked to prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors.
"These are powerful drugs, and we already know they have negative effects," said Dr. F. Paul Buckley III, surgical director at the Scott & White Heartburn and Acid Reflux Center, in Round Rock, Texas.
Most of those long-term risks are linked to the drug's suppression of stomach acids, said Buckley, who was not involved in the new study.
When stomach acids are blocked, the body is less able to absorb certain nutrients, including magnesium, calcium and vitamin B12. And proton pump inhibitors have been linked to problems such as bone-density loss and fractures.
Some research has also suggested the medications can interact with the clot-preventing drug Plavix, lowering its effectiveness.
In this latest study, though, the link between proton pump inhibitors and heart attacks was independent of Plavix use, said researcher Dr. John Cooke, chair of cardiovascular sciences at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
Overall, his team estimates, proton pump inhibitor users were 16 percent to 21 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than people with chronic acid reflux who were not taking the drugs.