November 28, 2019 | 2:40pm
Millions of people who take common heartburn drugs could be at risk of a nasty stomach flu, experts have warned.
People who took acid-relieving medications, such as Nexium, were 80 percent more likely to get acute gastroenteritis, researchers found.
For a long time these over-the-counter meds, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), were considered to be safe, but new research has suggested concerning side-effects.
Dr. Mina Tadrous, a scientist at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) in Toronto, said: “Very few people need to be on PPIs long term, but people do end up on them chronically.
“And now we’re finding that the drugs are not as safe as we thought. They interact with a bunch of drugs. There are some nutritional concerns. There’s an increased risk of fracture and an increased risk of infection.”
The new study, published in JAMA Network Open, analyzed more than 233,000 people taking PPIs continuously and compared them with nearly 627,000 adults who weren’t taking the drug.
When they looked at the 2015-16 winter virus season, they noted that people who took PPIs, including Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix and Prilosec, all the time were 80 percent more likely to get stomach flu.
The researchers, led by Ana-Maria Vilcu of Sorbonne University in Paris, said that because heartburn drugs work to reduce acid, it might increase the risk of infection as stomach acid plays a role in keeping viruses at bay.
Dr Tadrous, who provided editorial as part of the study, said: “If you reduce acids, you change the intestinal flora [the beneficial bacteria in the gut known as the microbiome], making you more susceptible to infections.”
But experts have raised concerns about the validity of the study and say the findings aren’t conclusive.
Dr. Arun Swaminath, director of inflammatory bowel disease program, at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City, pointed out that the researchers diagnosed someone as having acute gastroenteritis if they received a prescription for medications used to treat it.
However, those medications can be used to treat other issues as well.
These include changing the types of food you eat, when you eat and how much you eat.
Those who likely need long-term PPI therapy include people who need to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs long-term to help prevent ulcers.
Also, people with conditions such as severe esophagitis, Barrett oesophagus, idiopathic chronic ulcer, difficult-to-control gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and some people with bleeding ulcers.