Pneumonia Risk with PPI Use Continues Past One Year, Researchers Say

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Woman on couch with pneumonia

Adults who take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for longer than one year have an 82 percent greater risk of developing pneumonia than adults who don’t take the acid-reducing drugs, new research shows.

Researchers in England collected the new data on PPI drugs. The class of medicines includes Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid and Protonix. Over 75,000 people ages 60 years and older participated in the study.

More work needs to be done to eliminate biases in PPI prescribing, researchers concluded. The 2018 study may include data for hospitalized patients who were given PPIs while being treated for pneumonia already. A future study could exclude those patients.

PPIs and Pneumonia: Is It Old News?

Studies previously associated PPIs with an increased risk of pneumonia in older adults. But prior research mostly focused on the first 30 days after starting treatment.

The science behind the link is that stomach acid is believed to be important in helping the body defend against ingested bacteria.

Past studies revealed that people who are hospitalized are more susceptible to the effects of PPIs. These effects include the increased risk of pneumonia.

The new research shows that this risk specific to older adults is not short-lived or exclusive to those who are hospitalized.

Risks of Long-Term PPI Use

Other studies highlight different long-term PPI side effects. And these risks are not exclusive to older adults.

Are you suffering from side effects after taking a proton pump inhibitor? Get a Free Case Review

A recent study showed an association between giving babies PPIs and the development of serious risks later in life. These children were shown to have a greater risk of developing food allergies and other allergic diseases like asthma.

A 2017 study also showed a link between infant PPI use and an increased risk of bone fractures later in life.

PPIs have also been associated with a higher risk of death overall.

Potential side effects of long-term PPI use include

  • Bacterial infections (including pneumonia and clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea)
  • Bone fractures
  • Dementia
  • Heart attack and heart failure
  • Kidney disease, injury and failure (including acute interstitial nephritis)
  • Premature death
  • Stroke
  • Stomach cancer
  • Low magnesium levels
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Lupus erythematosus events (autoimmune disorder)

More than 4,500 PPI lawsuits claim that patients experienced serious kidney problems after taking PPIs. The first lawsuit is set to go to trial in September 2020.

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Kristin Compton's background is in legal studies. She worked as a paralegal before joining Drugwatch as a writer and researcher. She was also a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants. A mother and longtime patient, she has firsthand experience of the harmful effects prescription drugs can have on women and their children. Some of her qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies | Pre-Law from University of West Florida
  • Past employment with The Health Law Firm and Kerrigan, Estess, Rankin, McLeod & Thompson LLC
  • Personal experience battling severe food allergies, asthma and high-risk pregnancies

4 Cited Research Articles

  1. The Pharmaceutical Journal. (2018, June 20). Proton pump inhibitors linked to pneumonia risk beyond first year of use. Retrieved from https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/research-briefing/proton-pump-inhibitors-linked-to-pneumonia-risk-beyond-first-year-of-use/20204973.article?firstPass=false
  2. Brophy Marcus, M. (2017, July 3). Some heartburn drugs linked with higher risk of death. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heartburn-drugs-proton-pump-inhibitors-ppi-risks-prilosec-nexium-prevacid/
  3. U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. (2018, June 15). MDL Statistics Report – Distribution of Pending MDL Dockets by District. Retrieved from http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/Pending_MDL_Dockets_By_District-June-15-2018.pdf
  4. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). (2004, October 28). Use Of Stomach Acid-suppressive Medications Associated With Increased Risk Of Pneumonia. Science Daily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041027143141.htm
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