Heartburn Drugs May Increase Dementia Risk
Millions of people routinely take certain heartburn relief drugs -- known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) -- every day. These include lansoprazole (Prevacid), esomeprazole (Nexium), and omeprazole (Prilosec), all manufactured by AstraZeneca.
But a new study conducted at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, Germany suggests that repeated use of this class of drugs for gastric reflux or peptic ulcers was linked with a higher risk for dementia.
The authors were quick to point out that their study can only provide a statistical association between PPI prescriptions and occurrence of dementia in the elderly. It can’t prove that PPIs actually cause dementia.
But the numbers seem clear.
The researchers examined medical records from more than 73,000 patients age 75 and older. They were able to determine that 2,950 of those patients were regular PPI users -- they had at least one prescription for one of the drugs every four or five months over an 18-month period.
During the eight year study period, 29,510 people developed dementia. Those regular PPI users were 44 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who were not receiving the drugs.
The one sure piece of advice the study brings to physicians is this -- take care not to overprescribe PPIs, a problem which is very frequently reported. One study found that inappropriate prescriptions of PPI drugs may be as high as 70 percent.