Study Finds PPIs Increase Gastroenteritis Risk

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Australian Study Finds PPI Drugs May Cause Gastroenteritis

Medications used to treat heartburn, including Prevacid (lansoprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole magnesium), and Prilosec, (omeprazole) are in a class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These medications reduce acid production by blocking the stomach wall enzyme that produces acid. In the United States, PPIs are also sold under the names: Dexilant (dexlansoprazole), over-the-counter (OTC) Prevacid 24HR, OTC Prilosec, Protonix (pantoprazole sodium), Vimovo (esomeprazole magnesium and naproxen), Zegerid (omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate), and OTC Zegerid (Omeprazole).

Nexium, Dexilant, Prilosec, Zegerid, Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex, and Vimovo are available by prescription to treat conditions that include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach and small intestine ulcers (peptic ulcers), and inflammation of the esophagus. Prilosec OTC, Zegerid OTC, and Prevacid 24HR are sold over-the-counter for the treatment of frequent heartburn.

When medications are taken to reduce the production of stomach acid, this helps in the prevention of esophageal, stomach, and duodenum ulcers. If stomach juice backs up into the esophagus, the PPI would make the stomach acid less irritating and would enable healing in the event of an ulcer, according to a prior The New York Times report.

Now, Australian researchers have found that the heartburn medications increase risks for developing gastroenteritis, according to The research revealed that PPIs are associated with a 70 percent increased risk of patient hospitalization for infectious gastroenteritis, scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) said. ANU’s Dr. Yingxi Chen led the research and discovered the link between the heartburn drugs and the illness, commonly known as so-called “gastro.” Gastro is associated with more than 13 million “lost days of work” in Australia every year.

Parker Waichman LLP is a national law firm representing numerous clients in drug injury claims. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to anyone with questions about filing a proton pump inhibitor lawsuit.

Dr. Chen pointed out that people who are over 45 years of age and older were particularly susceptible to developing gastro due to using PPIs as they “manipulate the stomach into producing less acid,” wrote Because of this manipulation, some viruses and bacteria are not killed off in the body’s system prior to causing gastro. “We found that taking PPIs increased the risk of hospitalization with infectious gastroenteritis by up to 70 percent because they significantly reduce the amount of acid made by stomach, which increases risk of infectious gastro,” Chen wrote in a statement this week.

The ANU also notes that PPIs are one of the most commonly used gastric acid suppressants in the world. Some 20 million prescriptions are filled annually in Australia alone.

Dr. Chen also said it was important for people taking heartburn suppressants to be aware of the risks associated with the medicine. “There is no doubt that PPIs are an effective treatment for reflux and heartburn. However, clinicians and the patients using them should be fully aware of the side effects when considering PPI use and dosage,” Chen pointed out. “The elderly and those with chronic bowel problems are most at risk. These patients should be having a conversation with their doctor to ensure that they are on right dose and that these drugs are the right fit for them,” according to

The study was based on data from the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study, according to and adds to a report also conducted by the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. That research revealed 15.1 million gastro cases in Australia in 2010. Dr. Martin McNamara, Head of Research Assets at the Sax Institute added that these findings revealed the value of the 45 and Up Study as a national research resource. “The 45 and Up Study is the largest ongoing study of healthy aging in the Southern Hemisphere, allowing hundreds of Australia’s world class researchers to investigate big and complex issues and deliver answers in ways that are easily accessible to policy makers,” he said.

Another Study Finds PPI-Gastroenteritis Risk

Studies have long associated PPIs with a variety of serious health reactions, including fractures, dementia, heart disease, and birth defects, among others. JAMA Internal Medicine published a study revealing that PPI use was associated with a higher risk of chronic kidney disease, according to Medscape.

Another recent study tied PPIs to increased risks of potentially serious stomach infections. The study was recently published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and followed approximately 565,000 adults in Tayside, Scotland. The research, conducted by Dr. Thomas M. MacDonald and colleagues involved splitting patients into two groups. One group consisted of those who used PPIs and H2 receptor agonists, which is another type of acid blocker. The other group was the control group and did not take these drugs. The study authors found that those who took an acid reflux drug experienced an increased risk of bacterial infections.

“The results suggest that community prescribed (acid suppression medicines) were associated with increased rates of C. difficile and campylobacter positive gastroenteritis in both the community and hospital settings,” study authors wrote. Patients taking the acid reducers had a 1.7 times increased risk of C. difficile and a 3.7 times increased risk of campylobacter; risks increased for hospitalized patients. Both infections usually cause diarrhea and abdominal pain, and may be deadly. Some 500,000 Americans were diagnosed with C. difficile in 2011; 29,000 of these patients died within 30 days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously warned about the association between PPIs and C. difficile.

PPIs are more popular medications than H2s since they are typically more effective. In fact, Americans spend some $14 billion annually on PPIs. Because the drugs are so popular, consumers believe they are harmless, Dr. F. Paul Buckley, surgical director of the Heartburn and Acid Reflux Center at the Scott & White Clinic in Round Rock, Texas, told HealthDay. “There’s still a myth that these drugs are benign,” Buckley added. “It’s not true.”

Experts agree that patients and their physicians must assess if PPI treatment is the best treatment option. People with occasional heartburn and acid reflux may control their acid production with diet and lifestyle changes. “And you should be reassessed over time, to see if you really need to continue the medication,” Dr. David Bernstein, a gastroenterologist not involved in the research told HealthDay. “The potential problems are with long-term use.”

What is Gastroenteritis?

According to WebMD, diarrhea and vomiting are associated with gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis causes the stomach and intestines to become irritated and inflamed and is typically caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Specific symptoms of gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, cramping, fever, nausea, and headache. The diarrhea and vomiting may lead to dehydration, which is noted by dry skin, a dry mouth, feeling lightheaded, and being exceptionally thirsty.

Filing a PPI Gastroenteritis Lawsuit

If you or someone you know suffered gastroenteritis after taking a proton pump inhibitor, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, contact our firm today by filling out our online form or calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).