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Although heartburn drugs may ease digestion problems but too much of it could pose some health risks. Studies have shown that overuse of heartburn drugs can cause serious side effects and should be used with caution.

Well-known brands such as AstraZeneca's Nexium and Prilosec are widely sold over the counter by Procter & Gamble Co.

The drugs have U.S. sales of $13.9 billion a year, making them the third-biggest seller, according to Dr. Mitchell Katz of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

In one of five studies in the report, a team led by Shelly Gray of the University of Washington in Seattle studied 161,806 women between 50 and 79. After eight years of follow-up, they found women who took the drugs were at greater risk for fractures overall, especially of the spine and wrist.

In a different study, Dr. Michael Howell of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School and colleagues analyzed more than 100,000 patients discharged from hospitals over a five-year period.

They found a 74 percent increase in cases of infections with Clostridium difficile -- a common and sometimes deadly cause of diarrhea -- among people who uses the drugs daily.

Further, an analysis by Dr. Patrick Yachimski, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, found standardized guidelines for doctors on the appropriate use of the drugs to prevent overuse.