By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
U.S. health regulators, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), have announced that ulcer drugs such as AstraZeneca Plc's blockbuster Nexium could increase the risk of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD).
Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that can cause colitis and other intestinal conditions. The U.S. FDA said patients who develop diarrhea after taking these drugs should be checked for CDAD.
The drugs, including Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Zegerid and others, fall into a category called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). They are prescribed to treat acid reflux, stomach ulcers and other conditions, and work by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach.
People taking drugs that suppress stomach acid production may be at an increased risk for intestinal bacteria infections said the agency.
“Stomach acid is a very important defense mechanism against pathogens. It kills them,” said Dr. Dith R. Lederman, who authored a study published in October linking C. diff infections to stomach acid drugs.
Patients taking PPIs who develop diarrhea that does not improve may have CDAD, according to the FDA. The agency is working with manufacturers to include information in the drug labels about the increased risk with use of PPIs. PPIs are the third highest-selling class of drugs in the U.S., according to 2010 findings from Consumer Reports.