Do heartburn drugs equal heart attacks? A new study shows a possible connection. Using the mathematical method of examining trends in large amounts of data called “data-mining,” researchers looked at data including close to three million people. The lead author, Nigam H. Shah, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford, said that evidence connecting the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for gastric reflux showed increases in heart attacks as far back as 2000.
According to Shah, “This is the kind of analysis now possible because electronic medical records are widely available. It’s a benefit of the electronic records system that people are always talking about.”
There have been studies linking PPIs, such as Prilosec and Prevacid, with increased risk of heart attack. However, these studies involved people who had heart disease, causing researchers to question whether the increased risk was due to a drug interaction between the PPIs and clopidogrel, which is commonly prescribed post-heart attack.
Shah’s study examined only healthy people with no history of cardiac issues. Interestingly, he found no correlation between heart attack and H2 blockers, such as Zantac, Pepcid and Tagamet. H2 blockers are another class of drugs used for heartburn. Shah and his team believes the mechanism by which the risk of heart attack is increased with PPI use is interference with protective enzymes, resulting in inflammation and clots.
This is an eye-opener for me. I’ve been a Prilosec (generic omeprazole) user for years. Having gone through numerous different treatment regimes, including a particularly nasty one involving apple cider vinegar, I found that PPIs did the trick. Now, though, I think I’ll pick up some Pepcid, or another H2 blocker, the next time I go shopping. Getting rid of heartburn is a big concern of mine, but so is avoiding a possible heart attack.