Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are powerful acid-suppressing drugs sold both by prescription and over-the-counter to treat heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but they have also been linked to a long list of side effects. A new study published in a recent issue of the journal International Psychogeriatrics suggests that PPIs may also impact the brain, causing anxiety, nervousness and depression, especially in older adults.
The study involved more than 300 elderly participants who answered questions about their mood as well as their use of a PPI, like omeprazole, known by the brand name Prilosec. Researchers found that participants who reported taking PPIs were twice as likely as those who did not take the heartburn drugs to report feeling depressed or anxious.
“This might represent a frequent cause of depression in older populations; thus, mood should be routinely assessed in elderly patients on PPIs,” the authors concluded.
Previous studies have linked PPI use to other serious side effects. One study conducted by University College London involving 63,000 people taking PPIs found that they were twice as likely as those not taking the drugs to develop stomach cancer after seven years. Those who took the medication for a year were five times more likely to develop cancer. Those who took the drug for three years had an eight-fold increased risk of cancer.
Last year, the Danish Heart Foundation in Copenhagen tracked 244,00 men for six years and found that those who had taken PPIs had a 20 percent increased risk of stroke compared to men who did not take the drugs.
Another study by Erasmus University in Rotterdam in the Netherlands linked PPI use to a three-fold increased risk of having low sperm counts. And a Johns Hopkins University study found that those taking PPIs were 90 percent more likely to suffer kidney failure compared to those not taking the drugs.
Nearly 300 people have filed lawsuits in New Jersey alleging makers of PPIs knew the risks of the acid-reducing medication but failed to inform users of these risks.