Pills
An illustration picture taken in Lille, France, shows pills, tablets, caplets and capsules of medicine, May 7, 2017. Getty Images

Are you someone who takes indigestion pills too often? If yes, then you might want to take a moment to think it through before prolonging its use, because it can cause an early death.

A study released Monday states taking common heartburn and indigestion medication could increase the risk of death. Researchers found that people who take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), common drugs used to treat heartburn, are 25 percent more likely to die in the next six years than those who use an alternative treatment, called H2 blockers.

“We saw a small excess risk of dying that could be attributed to the PPI drug, and the risk increased the longer they took them,” said Ziyad Al-Aly, an epidemiologist from the University of Washington and co-author of the study. Researchers of the study, published in the journal BMJ Open, urged people taking PPIs to check whether it was necessary.

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The researchers examined the medical records of 3.5 million middle-aged Americans covered by the U.S. veterans healthcare system. Researchers said the risk of death for those taking PPIs was 15 percent higher than those not taking PPIs, and 23 percent higher than those taking no acid suppressants at all. The study found, of the patients who took indigestion medications for one to two years, those on PPIs had a 50 percent greater death risk during the period.

“In patients on [H2 blocker] tablets, there were 3.3 deaths per 100 people over one year. In the PPI group, this figure was higher at 4.7 per 100 people per year,” Al-Aly said, adding that many people tend to take PPIs for months or years to manage heartburn or acid reflux without knowing if its necessary for their body since the drugs are easily available.

"If people find themselves taking proton pump inhibitors for an extended period of time with no valid need for doing so, or for symptoms that can be managed in other ways, that's when there's far more risk than any potential benefit," Al-Aly said.

Dr. Louis Cohen, an assistant professor of gastroenterology with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City, reportedly said: "This finding is certainly cause for concern and something that should be considered as doctors continue to prescribe PPIs at a high rate and often fail to discontinue these drugs in a timely fashion."

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Cohen also said people taking PPIs could also develop several other health problems, which might influence their risk of death as well. Earlier, PPIs were tied to health problems such as dementia, kidney damage, and bone fractures.

"There is little question that the short-term use of PPIs for many conditions can be beneficial to patients," Cohen said, adding that because "studies to demonstrate causal relationships between PPIs and death are not likely." He further added "the challenge to physicians should remain to use medications judiciously and continue to assess the benefit of a medication to a patient over time."

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