Extended Use of Proton Pump Inhibitors May Up Pneumonia Risk in Older Adults

Published on June 22, 2018 by Sandy Liebhard

People over the age of 60 who use a class of heart burn drugs called proton pump inhibitors longer than a year may face a higher risk of pneumonia, according to the results of a recent study.

Risks of Long-Term Proton Pump Inhibitor Use

Proton pump inhibitors include prescription and over-the-courter versions of popular drugs like Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid, Protonix, and Dexilant.  They rank among the best-selling medications globally and are used by millions of Americans to treat GERD and other digestive problems associated with the over-production of stomach acid.

Their popularity causes many people to discount the risks and side effects associated with proton pump inhibitors. However, a growing number of studies have linked long-term use to a range of serious issues, including increased risks for heart attacks, dementia, C. diff infections, vitamin B 12 deficiency, low magnesium levels, certain types of bone fractures, and renal complications, including chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.

What this Latest Proton Pump Inhibitor Study Found

For this latest study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers analyzed data on more than 70,000 people over the age of 60 who had taken a proton pump inhibitor for a year or more, comparing the subjects with an equal number of matched controls.

The analysis indicated that those who were taking proton pump inhibitors faced an 82% hire risk of pneumonia the second year after initiating treatment compared to controls. Estimates were similar across age and comorbidity subgroups.

“Our findings support the need for caution in long-term prescribing of PPIs to older adults,” the study authors wrote.

“Further work is needed to clarify indication biases in PPI prescribing, especially in older adults hospitalised for pneumonia,” they concluded.

Lawsuits Link Long-Term Proton Pump Inhibitor Use to Kidney Damage

In recent years, thousands of patients have filed proton pump inhibitor lawsuits alleging that their long-term use of Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid, Protonix, and Dexilant resulted in serious kidney damage, including acute interstitial nephritis, acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, and kidney failure.

Plaintiffs claim that the manufacturers of these drugs have long been aware of reports linking long-term proton pump inhibitor use could harm the kidneys yet failed to provide the public with adequate warnings regarding these risks. Among other things, they point to a growing number of recent studies that appear to confirm this association, including:

  • A paper published by CMAJ Open in April 2015 that linked extended proton pump inhibitor use to a 3-fold increase in the risk for acute interstitial nephritis, as well as a 2.5 times higher risk of acute kidney injury.
  • Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2016 which suggested that long-term use of the drugs might increase the risk of chronic kidney disease by as much as 50%.
  • A paper appearing in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in April 2016 that reported that long-time users of proton pump inhibitors may be 96% more likely to develop kidney failure and 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease compared to patients using H2-blockers.

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