TYLER, TX (KLTV) - They're a popular choice for the pain of indigestion and heartburn, but, a new study shows more and more hospitals are giving acid reflux drugs to people who don't need them.
If you're taking these drugs and you don't need it, you are at higher risk of catching pneumonia.
Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid are among the most common acid suppressors hospitals give to intensive care patients who are at high risk of developing stress ulcers and heartburn. Though, medical researchers say some hospitals are over prescribing acid suppressors by giving them to patients that don't need them.
"Patients who were exposed to these medications in the inpatient setting had a higher rate of hospital acquired pneumonia which is a pneumonia that they develop while they're in the hospital," explained Dr. Shoshana Herzig, a Harvard Medical School Instructor and General Medicine Fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
The traditional thinking is the use of acid reflux drugs will suppress the amount of acid in the stomach.
"...which promotes growth of different types of bacteria in the upper gastrointestinal and upper respiratory tract," said Herzig.
And, that bacteria may be more likely to cause pneumonia. There is another problem. Stomach acid makes us cough, which is a good thing, but...
"When you suppress acid and stomach contents get into the lungs, there's not as much of a stimulus to cough that substance out," said Herzig.
Gastroenterologist Bola Olusola says about half the patients that get admitted to the hospital do get placed on acid medication.
"And, interestingly, about another half of those patients that are placed on this medication for the first time will go home with that medication," said Olusola.
Dr. Herzig says many of those patients could be risking their health.
"Inpatients who aren't in the intensive care unit, however, who are not at high risk for stress ulcers, use of these medications are not indicated for preventative purposes," said Herzig.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study. The study recommends speaking with a doctor if you are buying over the counter anti-acid medication to make sure you actually need them.