People taking over-the-counter antacids pills to control heartburn or acidity are at an increased risk of getting a heart attack by 16-21 percent, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The study led by an Indian-origin researcher came to this conclusion after analyzing 16 million medical documents of 2.9 million patients in two separate databases.
Nigam H. Shah from Stanford University in California stated, “People who take medication to suppress stomach acid are at greater risk of developing myocardial infarction, commonly known as heart attack.”
The drugs called Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) like Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid are widely prescribed medications to treat a number of medical conditions which include gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD).
“By looking at data from people who were given these drugs primarily for acid reflux and had no prior history of heart disease, our data-mining pipeline signals an association with a higher rate of heart attacks.”
“Our results demonstrate that PPIs appear to be associated with elevated risk of heart attack in the general population,” he added.
In the meantime, the team also worked with researchers from the Houston Methodist Hospital and they found H2 blockers (another type of antacid medication) did not show the same kind of links.
Some of the drug of H2 blockers are cimetidine and ranitidine and brand examples of H2 blockers are Zantac and Tagamet.
“Our earlier work identified that the PPIs can adversely affect the endothelium, the Teflon-like lining of the blood vessels,” a senior study author, John Cooke said.
That remark led researchers to hypothesis that anyone taking PPIs may be at greater risk for heart attack.
The scrutiny of antacids has only increased with time. At first, it was assumed PPIs only posed a risk to a very narrow subset of patients — those with coronary artery disease who were using the anti-platelet drug clopidogrel to prevent future heart attacks.
“Examiners originally assumed this was due to a drug interaction between these compounds and the FDA went so far as to release a warning about their concomitant use,” informed principal examiner Nicholas Leeper.
Our report raises concerns that these drugs — which are available over the counter and are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world — may not be as safe as we previously assumed,” the authors said.
The scientists hope to conduct a large, prospective, randomized trial to determine whether PPIs are harmful to a broader population of patients.
There are likely 113 million prescriptions for the drugs are issued around the world each year, according to the study.