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No Link Between Heartburn Drugs and Birth Defects: Study
Date:11/25/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Babies born to women who took a popular class of heartburn drugs while they were pregnant did not appear to have any heightened risk of birth defects, a large Danish study finds.

This class of drugs, known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), include blockbusters such as Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole). All were available by prescription-only during most of the study period (1996-2008), but Prilosec and Prevacid are now sold over-the-counter.

While the authors and an editorialist, publishing in the Nov. 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, called the results "reassuring," experts still recommend using drugs as little as possible during pregnancy.

"In general, these are probably safe but it takes a lot of time and a lot of exposures before you see some of the abnormalities that might exist," explained Dr. Eva Pressman, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "My recommendations are always to avoid medication exposure if at all possible. There are very few life-threatening disorders that require these PPIs," she noted.

"There are other ways to get the same effect," added Pressman, who was not involved in the study. "Most pregnant women have heartburn but most of it is relatively easy to treat with simple antacids such as Tums and Maalox and Mylanta, all of which are locally acting and absorbed, and don't pose any risk to the fetus."

Even propping yourself up so you're in a semi-vertical position, as opposed to lying flat, can help, said Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice president for research and global programs at the March of Dimes.

The research was funded by the Danish Medical Research Council and the Lundbeck Foundation.

The authors of the new study used linked databases t
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