The study findings, which have not yet been peer reviewed, were to be presented Monday at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting, in Philadelphia.
Majithia said that if patients don't report use of the painkillers to their gastroenterologists, they could put themselves at risk for a variety of complications, including gastrointestinal, kidney, heart and neurological problems.
"While some of these adverse effects are rare, physicians can better treat and expect such problems if they are aware of their patients' medications," he said.
Majithia also said doctors "need better methods of asking patients about their medications." One way might be for physicians to emphasize that patients mention all drugs, including herbal and over-the-counter medications, he said.
In another study to be released Monday at the gastroenterology meeting, researchers found that the Veterans Administration system would save money if it were to adopt a specific drug treatment for patients at risk of developing stomach ulcers because they've taken painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen or coxibs (like Celebrex) for long periods of time.
Gastrointestinal bleeding, which can be caused by ulcers that perforate the stomach wall, occurs in an estimated 4.5 percent of patients who take these painkillers over the long term. The elderly are at especially high risk.
Previous research has shown that the risk of bleeding can be reduced if patients take a proton pump inhibitor, which limits production of stomach acid, as a preventive measure. Proton pump inhibitors include widely advertised drugs such as Nexium and Prilosec.
In the new study, researchers found that it's cost-effective to prescribe the proton pump inhibitors as a preventa
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