This Common Heartburn Drug Could Trigger a Heart Attack

By on June 12, 2015
To soothe heartburn, most of us reach for an over-the-counter antacid.

However, doing so now could have serious–and perhaps even deadly–consequences, according to new research from Houston Methodist and Stanford University.

According to the research, adults who use a proton pump inhibitor, a type of antacid, could increase their heart attack risk by up to 21 percent. Worse yet, this risk even increased for those with no prior history of cardiovascular problems, something that concerns researchers.

The study appears in the current issue of PLoS One.

“Our earlier work identified that the PPIs can adversely affect the endothelium, the Teflon-like lining of the blood vessels,” says John Cookie, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at Houston Methodist Research Institute. “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.”

For their research, scientists collected data from two databases–the Stanford Translational Research Integrated Database Environment and a medical records database owned by Practice Fusion, Inc. Researchers specifically looked for people who were prescribed proton pump inhibitors, a popular antacid. They also checked these records to see if they had a history of cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack.

From here, researchers compared both sets of data to see if there was a trend–and indeed, there was.

As it turned out, those who used both proton pump inhibitors increased their heart attack risk by a significant amount–by up to 21 percent. In addition, people who used other types of antacids, such as H2 blockers, did not increase their risk of a heart attack, indicating that proton pump inhibitors are specifically responsible for this health risk.

Nigam H. Shah, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Stanford University, agrees these findings spell bad news for those who use these antacids.

“By looking at 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,” says Shah, who authored the study. “Our results demonstrate that PPIs appear to be associated with elevated risk of heart attack in the general population, and H2 blockers show no such association.”

Researchers emphasize bigger studies need to be carried out, however.

What This Means For You

Antacids may help stop heartburn, but if you’re using a specific type of antacid, watch out: You risk having a heart attack. You’re better off finding alternative ways to soothe this pain instead, such as making weight or dietary modifications, two strategies shown to reduce heartburn pain.

Readers: Do you use any antacids?

Heart Attack Risk Increases 16-21% With Use of Common
Proton Pump Inhibitor Usage and the Risk of Myocardial Infarction in the General

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