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Do Prilosec and other PPIs increase people’s risk of dementia?

Millions of people take proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPIs) such as omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), and lansoprazole (Prevacid) for heartburn or gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). This week, news outlets reported a link between these drugs, which many people stay on for years or even decades, and the risk of dementia.

Researchers in Germany examined an insurance claims database that included over 73,000 people, 75 and older, and free of dementia at the study’s start. They found that over seven years those who took PPIs had a 44% increased probability of receiving a diagnosis of dementia.

Since this finding comes from an observational study, and not a clinical trial, the researchers can’t say whether the drugs actually cause dementia, although they discuss some plausible reasons why they may.

Nothing is known about long-term side effects of drugs when they are approved by the FDA. (See this Just Care post about FDA-approved cancer drugs that don’t work.) So, observational studies are an important way to gather this information.

This is the second study indicating that PPIs may contribute to dementia risk. More evidence needs to accumulate though, such as showing that those who take higher doses have a higher probability of dementia, before a more definitive causal link can be established.

For those interested in a more in-depth discussion of the findings, click here.

To learn about ways to avoid heartburn or GERD without drugs, see this Just Care post.

To understand the signs of dementia, see this Just Care post. To learn about safety at home for people with dementia, see this Just Care post. And, for some tips on the benefits of early diagnosis of dementia, click here.

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