Before you pop another Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Losec, Zegerid, Prevacid or omeprazole, you might want to weigh the risks and benefits of taking such medications, known as proton pump inhibitors. These drugs are widely used to treat excess stomach acid, including ulcers and acid reflux disease. But in a report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, doctors warn of the possible dangers to patients who use these drugs:
1. Proton pump inhibitors may increase the risk of bone fractures. A study of 130,000 women by researchers at the University of Washington showed a 25% overall increased risk of fractures in women prescribed these medications.
2. Records of 100,000 patients, discharged from hospitals over a five year period, were studied by doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. They found that patients taking proton pump inhibitors were more than twice as likely, than patients not prescribed the drugs, to develop Clostridium difficile, a hard-to-treat infectious disease which tends to crop up in hospitals. This disease can cause diarrhea and severe complications, such as bowel perforation.
3. Proton pump inhibitors have been linked to increased risk of developing pneumonia. These drugs, which suppress acid in the stomach, might promote different types of bacteria growth in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts: those bacteria may cause pneumonias.
Some physicians believe that proton pump inhibitors are over-prescribed, and for many patients the adverse effects outweigh the benefits. Patients who are treated with these drugs for simple heartburn should understand the dangers of these drugs, try to make well-informed decisions and consult with their physicians.