Commonly prescribed gastric acid drug may increase death risk, study shows

Long-term use of a popular class of drug called proton pump inhibitors (PPIS) has been linked to an increased risk of death in a study published in BMJ Open.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence linking the use of PPIs to a range of health problems including kidney damage, bone fracture and dementia. The authors of the current study say it may be time to restrict the indications for PPI use and the amount of time patients take the treatment for.

PPIs are designed to inhibit the secretion of gastric acid and are commonly prescribed to treat heartburn, ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems.

“People have the idea that PPIs are very safe because they are readily available, but there are real risks to taking these drugs, particularly for long periods of time,” says lead author Ziyad Al-Aly (Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis).

The results are based on a US national database of veteran medical records for more than 6 million people who had their health tracked for almost six years, up to 2013 or death, if that came first.

The researchers examined data available for 349,312 people who had been prescribed either a PPI or another class of acid suppressant called H2 blockers, between 2006 and 2008. Two additional analyses were performed; one comparing PPI use to no PPI use among 3,288,092 people and one comparing PPI use to no use of either acid suppressant among 2,887,030 people.

The researchers report that, compared with the use of H2 blockers, PPI use was associated with a 25% increased risk of death from all causes, with this percentage increasing the longer people used PPIs for. A similar risk increase was seen for PPI use versus no use and for PPI use versus no use of either drug.

"No matter how we sliced and diced the data from this large data set, we saw the same thing: There's an increased risk of death among PPI users," says Al-Aly.

Al-Aly explains that, often, people are prescribed PPIs for an appropriate medical indication, but then doctors do not stop prescribing them and patients receive ongoing refills. He suggests that doctors perform re-assessments periodically to check whether people still need to be taking the drugs because in most cases, people are not going to be needing them for two or three years at a time.

"If I needed a PPI, I absolutely would take it. But I wouldn't take it willy-nilly if I didn't need it. And I would want my doctor to be monitoring me carefully and take me off it the moment it was no longer needed," he concludes.


Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally first developed an interest in medical communications when she took on the role of Journal Development Editor for BioMed Central (BMC), after having graduated with a degree in biomedical science from Greenwich University.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Robertson, Sally. (2018, August 23). Commonly prescribed gastric acid drug may increase death risk, study shows. News-Medical. Retrieved on December 06, 2023 from

  • MLA

    Robertson, Sally. "Commonly prescribed gastric acid drug may increase death risk, study shows". News-Medical. 06 December 2023. <>.

  • Chicago

    Robertson, Sally. "Commonly prescribed gastric acid drug may increase death risk, study shows". News-Medical. (accessed December 06, 2023).

  • Harvard

    Robertson, Sally. 2018. Commonly prescribed gastric acid drug may increase death risk, study shows. News-Medical, viewed 06 December 2023,


  1. Leo Weishaar Leo Weishaar United States says:

    how can you say that acid reflux only needs to be treated for three yrs. it is a lifetime disease which no amount of antacid consumption relieves. throat cancer is also a concern with continuing untreated reflux.

  2. Sue Peterson Sue Peterson United States says:

    What I find fascinating is that they don't NAME the drugs they are talking about--the commonly over-the-counter drugs that everyone buys for heartburn.  That tells me that Big Pharm will pitch a fit if they mention the drugs. If you don't specifically name the drugs, most people will think that brand named Omeprazole and it's closely modeled fellow drugs are totally safe!!!

  3. Karen Sheppeard Karen Sheppeard United States says:

    It would have been nice if they had mentioned what drugs they were? But NO we're supposed to get cancer from the FDA approved medicines they spew out in the millions. I have friends that take meds that a side effect is some kind of cancer. I will deal with the problem myself rather than get cancer as a side effect. Thank You Very Much!

  4. Fede .Gennari Fede .Gennari Argentina says:

    Regarding the "no drug mentioned", it mentioned PPI. It means every PPI. Omeprazole and Lanzoprazole are the ones that I have taken, but any other drug classified as PPI, should be included in the list, it's not that hard to deduct....

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
Long-term physical activity can prevent obesity-induced cognitive decline