Pharmaceutical Litigation Attorneys

Heartburn Medication Could Cause Dementia

When people take popular medications for common medical conditions, they believe that they are taking a drug that will do something good for them. However, many prescription drugs offer more bad than good, and people who are taking these drugs have no idea the risk that they are undertaking by using these prescription drugs.  

Acid Reflux Medication Linked to Dementia Risk

Some people’s bodies produce too much stomach acid, which can creep the esophagus and throat, causing a lot of pain. This condition is referred to as heartburn or acid reflux, and many people have experienced it at least once in their lives. Prescription proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid, are used for controlling acid production in the stomach. Some people rely on these medications to control their heartburn every single day, and there are concerns that doctors are overprescribing these types of medications, when a change in diet could help reduce acid-reflux issues naturally. There were over 15 million people who were on prescription proton pump inhibitor heartburn medication in 2013. In addition to being linked to kidney damage and weakened bones, proton pump inhibitor prescription drugs have now recently been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia in elderly individuals, according to NBCNews. A German study looked at the use of heartburn medication in elderly populations, those over the age of 75, and noticed that when comparing subjects who were not taking any heartburn medication to a group of subjects who were taking heartburn medication, the group of subjects taking heartburn medication had a forty four percent higher instance of developing dementia. The data was collected from more than 73,000 patients spanning 2004-2011 from records provided by a health insurer and analyzed in late 2015. Patients’ diagnoses and drug prescription records were categorized, and used to draw up various conclusions about the use of heartburn drugs and an increased risk of dementia in elderly patients. The study suggests that patients may stay on these heartburn drugs for too long and may use them when it is unnecessary to do so (i.e., the drugs are being prescribed for minor heartburn).  

Shortcomings of the German Study

The study gives useful information, but also has a few shortcomings that could make the data more or less profound. For instance, the study does not indicate whether all of the heartburn medication was prescription medication, or if patients were able to get the heartburn medication over the counter. Additionally, the study had no way of taking into consideration body weight and diet, which are two known risk factors associated with the onset of dementia.  

Ways Patients Can Get Off These Drugs

Not everyone is able to control their stomach acid issues without medication, but for many people who take these drugs it may be possible to curb acid production without drugs. A few ways that people can reduce their stomach acid production levels include:
  • Eating smaller meals.
  • Reducing acid inducing foods, like things containing caffeine.
  • Changing their diet to more vegetables and fewer processed foods.
  • Remaining in an upright posture for a few hours after a meal.

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