Heartburn Meds May Raise Risk of Dementia
Study raises concerns about proton-pump inhibitor drugs
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2016 7:00 PM CST
Prevacid 24HR, an over-the-counter treatment for frequent heartburn, travels the packaging line at an Edison, New Jersey facility.   (Jim Sulley/newscast)

(Newser) – Certain heartburn drugs have already been linked to heath woes including heart disease and kidney disease. Now a study in JAMA Neurology says those drugs—proton-pump inhibitors like Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium—may also boost the chance of dementia, UPI reports. Analyzing a German health insurer's data on nearly 74,000 customers aged 75 and up from 2004 to 2011, researchers found a 44% higher dementia risk among "PPI" users. The finding also coincides with research showing that mice on PPIs had higher amyloid plaque levels in their brains, which has been linked to dementia. So what to do, when roughly 15 million Americans use prescription PPIs and other patients take over-the-counter versions? For now, nothing.

More clinical trials are needed to analyze the possible PPI-dementia link, senior study author Britta Haenisch tells CBS News. For one thing, the JAMA Neurology study didn't account for lifestyle and diet, which can influence dementia risk. But, she adds, "clinicians should follow guidelines for PPI prescription, to avoid overprescribing PPIs and inappropriate use." Up to 70% of PPI prescriptions may be needless reactions to minor cases of acid reflux or heartburn, per a recent study. Big picture: PPIs are being seen in a whole new light. "The teaching for many years was that these drugs were quite safe," a gastroenterologist tells NPR. "But there is data that's emerging that suggests PPIs may not be as safe as we think they are." (Turns out vegetable oils may cause dementia when heated.)