Commonly heartburn drug linked to pneumonia in elderly

London: Older adults’s intake of widely prescribed drugs to neutralise stomach acid in people with heartburn or stomach ulcers could increase their risk of pneumonia, finds a study.

Approximately 40 per cent of older adults receive proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), although according to some experts, up to 85 per cent of people who receive PPI prescriptions may not need them, the researchers said.

This study shows that there was a higher rate of pneumonia in older people who received PPIs over a two year period.

Once thought to be relatively harmless, PPIs have more recently been linked to increased rates for certain health concerns like fractures, cardiovascular disease, and some bacterial infections.

“Our study adds to growing evidence that PPIs are not quite as safe as previously thought, although they are still a very useful class of medication for certain groups of patients,” said David Melzer, Professor at Britain’s University of Exeter.

However, “caution is needed in interpreting the findings,” Melzer added, in the paper published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

He noted that people should not stop using their PPI medication, but should discuss with their prescribing healthcare professional whether the PPIs are still needed.

Stopping PPIs abruptly, could be dangerous as PPIs may be useful, for example, to prevent stomach bleeds in some people.

As with all prescription medications, regularly review your use of medicines like PPIs with your healthcare providers to make sure each prescription is still needed, Melzer said.

For the study, the team selected 75,000 patients 60-years-old and older who had taken prescribed PPIs regularly and who also had previous regular medical records.