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Popular Heartburn Meds May Boost Fracture Risk
Date:5/9/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Reinforcing U.S. health officials' concerns, new Korean research suggests that long-term use of popular heartburn drugs such as Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium is linked to an increased risk of fractures.

Scientists conducting a meta-analysis of 11 studies published between 1997 and 2011 found that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which reduce stomach acid production, were associated with a 29 percent increased risk of fracture. This included a 31 percent higher risk of hip fractures and a 54 percent heightened risk of vertebral fractures.

Another class of heartburn drugs known as H2-receptor antagonists or H2 blockers -- which include brand names such as Zantac and Pepcid -- were not significantly linked to fracture risk, according to the study authors. H2 blockers, however, are less powerful than PPIs at suppressing acid production, blocking only about 70 percent rather than the estimated 98 percent that can be blocked by PPIs.

"It is difficult to say uniformly what the absolute risk is because fracture risk shows many differences according to age, sex, race and ethnicity," said study lead author Dr. Chun-Sick Eom, a clinical instructor in the Department of Family Medicine at Hallym University Hospital in Chuncheon, Korea.

"Clinicians should carefully consider their decision to prescribe PPIs for patients at elevated risk for fracture, especially women older than 65 years of age," he added. "We recommend that drug doses be chosen thoughtfully with consideration of what is necessary to achieve desired therapeutic goals."

In addition, a subset of high-quality studies -- and studies adjusting for at least five variables that could also influence fracture risk -- did show an increase in fractures in people taking H2 blockers. For this reason, the study authors also recommended further study on that topic.

The study is published
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