Heartburn is a painful condition that could cause the development of cancer if left untreated for a long period of time, but mounting studies suggest drugs meant to treat these symptoms present risks of their own. A new study of almost 245,000 adults found a significant increase in stroke risks in patients taking high doses of heartburn drugs versus patients taking lower doses or no drugs at all.
The results of the study, which were recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session in conference, found certain dosages and types of heartburn drugs could increase a patient’s risk for suffering a stroke by as much as 94%.
Researchers looked at two types of heartburn drugs: proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid and H2 blockers like Pepcid and Zantac. The increase in stroke risk was only present in patients taking PPIs. Patients taking Pepcid or Zantac did not experience any additional risks.
The results of the study suggest patients should take low dosages for short amounts of time to reduce the risk of stroke and other side effects. However, this is easier said than done. For patients regularly taking PPIs to relieve heartburn, going off the medication can cause them to experience more severe heartburn than before – this makes quitting the drugs difficult.
PPIs like Nexium and Prilosec recently came under scrutiny for causing debilitating side effects. Studies suggest these drugs can cause chronic kidney disease, the gradual loss of kidney function over time, and even complete kidney failure. Patients who have experienced kidney injuries have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers alleging the drugs are unreasonably dangerous and that they were not adequately warned of the risks.