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Prescription Heartburn Meds Associated With Early Death.

A common type of heartburn medication is linked to a higher risk of early death, according to a new study.

The ( medicine , in a class of ( drugs  called proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, has previously been tied to a greater chance of negative health effects, such as kidney ( disease  and various types of infections. But, the new research went further and found prescription PPIs are associated with a 25 percent increased risk of death from any cause. The PPIs include brands such as Nexium and Prevacid, the Times reported. 

"I don't want people to panic," lead author, Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly told ( The New York Times . "The risk if not large, and with people who need P.P.I.s for a valid medical condition -- a bleeding ulcer, for example -- the benefit far outweighs the risk. But people who are taking them when they don't really need them and they're getting no benefit, only the risk."

Dr. Al-Aly and his colleagues examined data from patients in the Veterans Affairs health care system who took PPIs, those who took another type of medication to help with acid reflux, as well as those who took neither.

"The VA has the largest integrated electronic medical record system in the world," Al-Aly told ( CNN . "This enabled us to look at a large number of patients and follow them up for about six years to examine our research questions."

Their findings revealed those who took PPIs compared to those who took H2 blockers had a greater risk of death from all causes. PPIs are commonly sold over-the-counter; however, the study published in the journal ( BMJ Open  only examined ( drugs  available by prescription. Some of the common brand-names include: Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, and Zegerid. PPIs help with heartburn by reducing the acid produced by the stomach.

Despite the study showing an increased risk of death, researchers are still unsure the biological reason behind why the group of ( drugs  are associated with an early death. Since the research was an observational study, no cause and effect can be determined. One of the limitations of the study is that the data included mainly older white male U.S. veterans. 

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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Date:Jul 8, 2017
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