Indigestion pills ‘may increase the risk of an early death’.

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Do you pop pills for heartburn? It may up risk of death

People who use one type of treatment for heartburn are 25% more likely to die within six years.

Indigestion pills taken daily by millions of Britons may raise the risk of an early death, research suggests.

Scientists found that people who take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), common drugs used to treat heartburn, are 25 per cent more likely to die in the next six years than those who use an alternative treatment, called H2 blockers.

Experts said use of the drugs should be restricted in light of the new evidence, which was based on records from six million people.

More than five million bottles and packets are prescribed each year in England to treat gastroesophageal reflux, a severe form of heartburn.


Brands available in the UK include:

  • Dexilant (dexlansoprazole)
  • Protonix (pantoprazole)
  • Aciphex (rabeprazole)

Brands available in the US include:

  • Nexium (esomeprazole)
  • Prevacid (lansoprazole)
  • AcipHex (rabeprazole)


Brands available in the UK include:

  • Tagamet (cimetidine)
  • Peptimax (cimetidine)
  • Tazac (nizatidine)

Brands available in the US include:

  • Axid (nizatidine)
  • Pepcid (famotidine)
  • Tagamet (cimetidine)

Many more Britons buy PPIs – which include omeprazole and lansoprazole – over the counter of pharmacies without a prescription, or in corner shops and supermarkets.

The drugs are not recommended for long-term use, but doctors fear that because they are so readily available, people may take them without medical supervision for years.

The scientists stressed that patients should continue to use the drugs if their doctor prescribes them – but should steer clear if they are not definitely needed.

They wrote: ‘Although our results should not deter prescription and use of PPIs where medically indicated, they may be used to encourage and promote pharmacovigilance [monitoring the side-effects of licensed drugs] and [they] emphasise the need to exercise judicious use of PPIs and limit use and duration of therapy to instances where there is a clear medical indication and where benefit outweighs potential risk.’


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