Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are one of the most commonly prescribed medications worldwide for the treatment of all acid-related disorders, including gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcer. They include popular brands such as Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec.
“Proton Pumps” are enzymes found in certain cells of the stomach. They function to make hydrochloric acid, the primary component stomach acid. As most people are aware, the acid plays a key role in digestion and is what is usually felt by people indigestion.
PPIs work by “inhibiting” the amount of acid produced in the stomach. Because millions of people use PPIs and because the drugs are so effective are eliminating heartburn symptoms, few people worry about side effects potentially associated with these drugs. But the scientific community continues to scrutinize these drugs and some of the findings are alarming.
Recently, an observational study was conducted by the University College London involving 63,397 people who were either taking PPIs or Helicobacter pylori (H2) blockers ((i.e. Pepcid, Zantac, Tagamet). Researchers reported that taking PPIs was linked with more than twice the risk of developing stomach cancer, while taking H2 blockers was not associated with any increased risk. It was also observed that people who took PPIs every day had more than four times the risk for stomach cancer, compared with those who used the drug once a week.
The findings also showed that the longer PPIs were used, the greater the risk one had of developing stomach cancer. For individuals taking PPIs for 1-2 years, they were five times as likely to develop stomach cancer. For 2-3 years, the risk climbed to six times as likely. And for 3 or more years of regular use, individuals had more than eight times the risk of developing the cancer.
Scientists think that the increased risk of gastric cancer with people using PPIs can be attributed to the drugs’ stimulation of the hormone ‘gastrin”. Basically, gastrin is an important hormone of the digestive system that assists in acid production in the stomach.
When acid is already present in the stomach, gastrin levels are low – since there is no need for more acid. However, when gastric acid levels are low (which is what PPIs are designed to achieve), gastrin levels increase. Medically, it is well known that gastrin levels are commonly elevated in patients taking PPIs.
Multiple clinical studies have indicated that high gastrin levels can be associated with an increased risk of cancer, particularly in patients with Helicobacter pylori infection.
Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC is currently offering free consultations for individuals who may have suffered or been diagnosed with a serious injury after regular daily use of prescription or over-the-counter PPIs. Our firm is experienced pharmaceutical product liability and dedicated to holding manufactures of these products liable. Contact at us at (877) 277-7336. There is no charge to speak with us or for case evaluations.