Common heartburn drug linked to a higher risk of dementia

    18 February 2016

    Proton pump inhibitors, commonly used to treat heartburn, are associated with an increased risk of dementia, according to research by the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

    The drugs are widely available both on prescription and over the counter and marketed in Britain under the brand name Nexium.

    The researchers looked at the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in 73,500 subjects over the age of 75 who were free of dementia at the beginning of the study. Over the following five years, about 29,000 developed Alzheimer’s disease or other kinds of dementia.

    The research, which has been published in the journal JAMA Neurology, found that after controlling external factors (such as age, sex and other health conditions and medicine use) regular use of PPIs increased the risk of dementia in men by 52 per cent, and by 42 per cent in women.

    Our expert verdict
    This is an interesting study and it establishes a definite need for further research on this topic, particularly looking into duration of treatment. The study size is impressive, although only 2,950 of the 73,679 participants were on PPIs. The researchers say that outcomes were adjusted to account for confounding factors.
    Research score: 4/5

    The study’s senior author, Britta Haenisch, said: ‘Our study does not prove that PPIs cause dementia. It can only provide a statistical association. This is just a small part of the puzzle.

    ‘Clinicians, pharmacists and patients have to weigh the benefits against the potential side effects, and future studies will help to better inform these decisions.’