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Heartburn Drugs Raise Pneumonia Risk

Heartburn drugs such as proton pump inhibitors and histamine-2 receptor antagonists may raise your risk of pneumonia, according to an analysis the results of 31 studies.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium). Histamine-2 receptor antagonists, also called H2 blockers, include cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid) and ranitidine (Zantac). Such drugs are the second best-selling class of medications worldwide. U.S. sales reached nearly $27 billion in 2005.

Business Week reports:

"... [R]ecently, studies have raised concerns about the drugs. Several studies have linked PPIs to a higher risk of fractures and an infection with a bacterium called Clostridium difficile ... The most plausible reason why suppressing acid in the stomach might raise the risk of pneumonia ... is that stomach acid acts as a barrier helping to control harmful bacteria and pathogens."

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