A group of researchers representing the Stanford University on Wednesday reported that findings of a new data mining project are suggesting that there’s a strong link between a common heartburn medication used by over 100 million people each year and increased risk of heart attack.
During the study, researchers searched through and analyzed a couple of databases containing 16 million electronic records belonging to 2.9 million patients. They came to know that individuals who use medications for suppressing stomach acid release are 16 to 21% more likely to experience myocardial infarction or heart attack.
Due to its design, the study couldn’t showcase detailed analysis of cause and effect. However, the researchers are claiming that if the pharmacovigilance algorithms used by them were available, they could have identified the link between heartburn medications and heart attack risk much earlier.
According to Prof. Nicholas Leeper, who teaches cardiovascular medicine and vascular surgery at the Stanford University, association between heart attacks and the heart burn drugs called proton pump inhibitors is significant enough for the patients to talk about their risk with their physicians. Leeper also happens to be a co-author of the study.
The most alarming fact about this association is that the danger goes beyond high-risk groups, for instance, the elderly.
Leeper wants the FDA to be aware of the findings of this new study. However, he has admitted that only a large clinical study in the future will be able to establish whether the proton pump inhibitors are responsible for increased rates of heart attacks.
The study’s lead author Prof. Nigam Shah, who teaches biomedical informatics at the University, said that any individual who is taking these medications for over two weeks without informing their doctor should inform their doctor about it immediately.
Proton pump inhibitors like Prevacid, Prilosec, and Nexium are among the most frequently used medications in the world. The study conducted by Stanford researchers revealed that around 113 million prescriptions include the mention of these drugs every year.
In America, on the other hand, the year 2009 saw around 21 million individuals using any one or more of these three drugs by prescription. The study has further informed that the inclusion of over-the-counter sales will take the global annual sales to $13 billion.