Australian National University researchers have found that people taking acid-reducing drugs proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, have a 70 percent increased risk of being hospitalized for infectious gastroenteritis.They reported results that these hospitalizations accounted for just over 13 million lost days of work in Australia each year.
Researchers analyzed information from patients older than 45 suffering from gastroenteritis.
“The elderly and those with chronic bowel problems are most at risk,” lead author Yingxi Chen said according to ABC News. “These patients should be having a conversation with their doctor to ensure that they are on right dose and that these drugs are the right fit for them.”
“There is no doubt that PPIs are an effective treatment for reflux and heartburn,” Chen said. “However, clinicians and the patients using them should be fully aware of the side effects when considering PPI use and dosage.”
These medications, which include the brand names Prevacid, Nexium and Prilosec, are used to treat heartburn and acid reflux and work by reducing the acid in the stomach. It is this significant reduction of acid that is thought to be the cause of the increased risk of hospitalization for infectious gastroenteritis.
Researchers in Scotland and England recently came to a similar conclusion, saying that this acid reduction alters gut bacteria that is useful in protecting against contaminated food. They found that those taking PPIs were at higher risk for food poisoning, E. coli, salmonella, shigella and nearly four times increased risk for campylobacter, the most common form of food poisoning usually found on raw or undercooked poultry.
PPIs have been under a lot of scrutiny. With more than 19 million scripts prescribed each year in Australia according to ABC News and around 60 million prescribed a year in England according to the Daily Mail, and the drugs being additionally available over the counter, their impact is huge.
Researchers have been linking them to a variety of side effects, many quite dangerous. including increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and kidney disease and renal failure.