Heartburn Medication May Increase Risk of Heart Attacks By 20%

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Jun 11, 2015 06:00 AM EDT

SLUBICE, POLAND - APRIL 16: Pharmaceuticals, including aspirin and antacids, that are cheaper than their equivalents in Germany, lie on a counter for sale at an outdoor market near the German-Polish border on April 16, 2014 in Slubice, Poland. May 1 will mark ten years since the European Union expanded east, taking in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states as new members. And though the border region between Germany and Poland is flourishing with trade and cultural exchange, the open border has also brought a sharp rise in crime, especially car theft, in communities in Germany close to Poland. (Photo : Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Over-the-counter medication for heartburn has shown association with increased heart attack risk, according to a new study.

Researchers from Houston Methodist and Stanford University found that common types of over-the-counter antacids that use proton pump inhibitors (PPI) can increase the chances of getting a heart attack by 20 percent and cause long-term cardiovascular disease. Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday.

"Our earlier work identified that the PPI can adversely affect the endothelium, the Teflon-like lining of the blood vessels," said Dr. John Cooke, senior author of the study, as per Eureka Alert.  

"That observation led us to hypothesize that anyone taking PPIs may be at greater risk for heart attack. Accordingly, in two large populations of patients, we asked what happened to people that were on PPIs versus other medications for the stomach," Dr. Cooke added.

For the research, scientists analyzed 16 million clinical documents that represented 2.9 million patients. They found proof that PPI is a contributor of heart attack but those who took antacids with H2 blockers showed no increased chances of acquiring heart attacks, Medical Daily has learned.

The team collected information from 2 databases including the database from Stanford Translational Research Integrated Database Environment (STRIDE) which contains 1.8 million information from clinics and Stanford Hospital patients and from more than a million medical records database by Practice Fusion, Inc. Company. They found that patients who used PPIs had a 1.16–1.21 fold increased chances of having a heart attack.

 "By looking at the data from people who were given PPI 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," Dr Nigam H. Shah of Stanford University said.

"Our results demonstrate that PPIs appear to be associated with elevated risk of heart attack in the general population while H2 blockers show no such association," Dr. Shah added.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are over 1 in 14 Americans who have PPIs to treat gastrointestinal disorders and digestive system issues, like ulcers and acid reflux. The most commercially known and available antacids in the United States that contain PPI are Nexium, PrevAcid, and Prisolec. Popular antacids with H2 blockers are Tagamet and Zantac.

Scientists admitted that their research does not provide concrete proof that PPIs in antacids can cause heart attacks as there may be other contributing factors. Their study only adds to the pile of evidence about the unstudied risks of the use of PPI and its status as a widely prescribed drug in the US, according to CBS News.

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