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Heartburn or pneumonia? Sometimes you might have to choose

May 27, 2009 | 10:45 am

Acid-suppressing drugs are routinely given to about half of all hospital patients. And while the drugs, specifically the ones known as proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium among others), may cut down on the likelihood of gastric reflux and gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers, they don't seem to do much for pneumonia risk.

A new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. finds that acid-suppressing drugs, most notably those proton pump inhibitors, are linked to an increased chance of hospital-acquired pneumonia.

This connection isn't exactly a bolt out of the blue. Other research has shown a link between such drugs and pneumonia as well.

But it does add impetus to the need to reexamine the routine administering of the medications.

Here's more on proton pump inhibitors from MedicineNet.

And here's the abstract, or short version, of the new study.

The larger report concludes: "This study found that acid-suppressive medication use was associated with 30% increased odds of hospital-acquired pneumonia, and this result was significant for proton-pump inhibitor use.... Further scrutiny is warranted regarding inpatient prescribing practices of these medications."

-- Tami Dennis