Use of antacids raises heart attack risk: study

13 June 2015

A new study suggests use of common antacids raises heart attack risk 16-21 per cent.

Adults who use proton pump inhibitors run a 16 and 21 per cent higher risk of suffering a heart attack than people who do not use the commonly prescribed antacids, according to Houston Methodist and Stanford University scientists.

An examination of 16 million clinical documents representing 2.9 million patients further showed  that patients who used a different type of antacid drug called an H2 blocker did not run higher heart attack risk.

According to senior author John Cooke, the earlier work identified that the PPIs could have an adverse effect on endothelium, the Teflon-like lining of the blood vessels, which led them to hypothesise that anyone taking PPIs might be at greater risk for heart attack.

Therefore,  in two large populations of patients, they decided to investigate what happened to people who were on PPIs as against other medications for the stomach.

The study brought out a clear and significant association between exposure to PPIs and the occurrences of heart attack.

The researchers say in future they hoped to conduct a large, prospective, randomised trial to determine whether PPIs were harmful to a broader population of patients. The researchers studied 16 million clinical documents of 2.9 million patients in two separate databases.

According to lead researcher, Nigam H Shah from Stanford University, California, people who took medication to suppress stomach acid were at greater risk of developing myocardial infarction, commonly known as heart attack.

Drugs like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid -- called proton pump inhibitors (PPI) are some of the widely prescribed drugs to treat a wide range of disorders, including gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

"By looking at data from people who were given these 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."

"Our results demonstrate that PPIs appear to be associated with elevated risk of heart attack in the general population," he added.

Some of the more commonly prescribed H2 blockers are cimetidine and ranitidine and brand examples of H2 blockers were Zantac and Tagamet.

According to commentators, antacids were increasingly coming under scrutiny. It was initially believed that PPIs only posed a risk to a very narrow subset of patients -- those with coronary artery disease who were using the anti-platelet drug clopidogrel to prevent future heart attacks.

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