A class of drugs used to reduce stomach acid in people with heartburn or ulcers may not be completely safe for older adults, according to a recent study from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. These medications – called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – which are prescribed for approximately 40 percent of seniors, may increase pneumonia risk in this population.
The study involved 75,000 adults over the age of 60 who were treated regularly with PPIs from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink for England, a large database containing medical records. The researchers discovered a statistical link between long-term use of the common heartburn drugs and pneumonia – a leading cause of death in older adults.
Proton pump inhibitors have also been linked to an increased risk for fractures, heart disease, and certain bacterial infections. Some experts estimate that up to 85 percent of people taking PPIs may not need them. Older adults should talk to their health care provider if they have questions or concerns about their medication(s), according to researchers.