Acid-suppressing drugs may boost pneumonia risk

By Tom Nordlie • Published: September 18th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The last thing a doctor wants is to remedy one problem and create a bigger one.

So researchers are always on the lookout for links between treatment protocols and new illnesses that develop during or after treatment.

Here’s an example… a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests drugs that suppress stomach acid increase the risk of hospital-acquired pneumonia.

That’s a serious matter.

Pneumonia is the second most common type of hospital-acquired infection in the U-S and the one most likely to cause death.

It strikes three-hundred-thousand patients each year and has a mortality rate of up to seventy percent.

Acid-suppressing drugs are often given to prevent stress ulcers and internal bleeding.

Scientists aren’t sure how they promote pneumonia. It may be the drugs impair white blood cells, or alter bacterial flora in the lungs.

In the study, researchers examined records from almost sixty-four-thousand adults admitted to a large metropolitan hospital.

About half of them were given acid-suppressing drugs.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia struck three-point-five percent of the total study population.

Data analysis revealed that patients who received the drugs had a thirty percent greater risk of contracting hospital-acquired pneumonia.

The researchers estimate that the drugs may cause thirty-three-thousand deaths from hospital-acquired pneumonia in the U-S annually.

And the researchers believe the benefits of the drugs probably don’t offset the risks in many cases.

More studies are needed. And perhaps the criteria for administering these drugs should be changed.

Because patients should get better in the hospital, not worse.