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Heartburn Drugs May Raise Pneumonia Risk
Date:12/20/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Popular heartburn drugs, including proton pump inhibitors and histamine-2 receptor antagonists, may raise the risk of pneumonia, new research finds.

Researchers in Korea analyzed the results of 31 studies on heartburn drugs published between 1985 and 2009.

"Our results suggest that the use of acid suppressive drugs is associated with an increased risk of pneumonia," said Dr. Sang Min Park of the department of family medicine at Seoul National University Hospital in Korea.

"Patients should be cautious at overuse of acid-suppressive drugs, both high-dose and long duration," he added.

Sales of these enormously popular drugs -- the second best-selling category of medications worldwide -- reached nearly $27 billion in the United States in 2005, according to background information in the study, published Dec. 20 in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce acid production in the stomach and are used to treat heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and gastric ulcers. They include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium).

Histamine-2 receptor antagonists, often called H2 blockers, use a different mechanism to reduce stomach acid and include cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid) and ranitidine (Zantac).

According to Consumer Reports, sales of a Nexium alone hit $4.8 billion in 2008.

Yet recently, studies have raised concerns about the drugs. Several studies have linked PPIs to a higher risk of fractures and an infection with a bacterium called Clostridium difficile.

Some previous studies also linked heartburn drugs to a higher risk of pneumonia, but the research has been mixed, according to the study authors.

Their meta-analysis combined the results of eight observational studies t
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