Over-the-counter acid-reflux drugs used to treat heartburn may cause pneumonia, new research suggests.
Taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for at least a year is significantly linked to developing the inflammatory lung condition, a UK study found.
PPIs may lead to pneumonia by neutralising stomach acid, which acts as an effective barrier against the infection, according to the researchers.
Although generally considered safe, PPIs have previously been associated with dementia, bone fractures, depression and gut infections.
As well as being available without a prescription at pharmacies, corner shops and supermarkets, doctors dole out more than five million bottles and packets of PPIs every year in England alone to treat severe heartburn.
Previous research suggests around 40 per cent of elderly people take PPIs, which are also used to treat stomach ulcers, however, up to 85 per cent of such prescriptions may be unnecessary.
Over-the-counter acid reflux drugs may cause pneumonia, new research suggests (stock)
CAN GUINEA PIGS GIVE PEOPLE PNEUMONIA?
Guinea pigs are making people ill, a report suggested in September 2017.
In three years, at least as many people have been taken to hospital after developing life-threatening pneumonia from their furry friends, a study by Bernhoven Hospital, Netherlands, found.
The incidences involved two women and one man; all were in their early 30s.
Out of the three patients, two were submitted to intensive care. They both had guinea pigs as pets who had recently shown respiratory symptoms.
The man had two guinea pigs, while one of the female patients had 25.
The other woman worked in a vet clinic where she cared for guinea pigs suffering from pink eye and nasal inflammation.
Patient samples revealed the presence of bacteria associated with pneumonia.
In one of the individuals, this bacteria could be traced back to a specific guinea pig.
Most guinea pigs likely harbour the bacteria responsible for the inflammatory lung condition, which is detectable by the animals developing pink eye.
Dr Steven Gordon, chair of infectious disease at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘We love our pets, but we’ve got to be smart about pets and hygiene.
‘We should be washing our hands after pet contact, and certain high-risk people – like those with compromised immune systems – should avoid contact with pets.’
‘PPIs are not quite as safe as previously thought’
Study author Professor David Melzer, from the University of Exeter, said: ‘This study shows that there was a higher rate of pneumonia in older people who received PPIs over a two year period.’
The researchers stress people should not stop taking any prescribed PPIs without first discussing it with their GPs, adding the medication can help to prevent dangerous bleeds in those with stomach ulcers.
Professor Melzer adds, however: ‘Our study adds to growing evidence that PPIs are not quite as safe as previously thought, although they are still a very useful class of medication for certain groups of patients.’
The researchers analysed 150,100 people over 60, half of which had been taking PPIs for at least a year.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
PPIs may cause depression
Research released last month suggested PPIs may cause depression.
Sufferers of the mental-health condition are significantly more likely to take PPIs every day, a study found.
Although unclear exactly why this association occurs, the researchers believe PPIs may alter the guts’ bacterial make-up.
Previous research suggests a link between the microbiome and people’s mental health.
Results further suggest the PPIs pantoprazole and lansoprazole are particularly associated with depression.
The researchers, from Taipei Veterans General Hospital, state further studies investigating the link between such drugs and mental-health disorders are required.
They add doctors should continue to prescribe PPIs when needed.