Popular indigestion pills such as Zantac and Losec have this week been pinpointed as a major cause of pneumonia, a disease that can be a killer in the elderly.
Acid suppressive drugs, as they’re known, are given to up to 70 per cent of elderly patients in hospital, and they are likely to be a major cause of pneumonia-related deaths, say researchers from Seoul National University Hospital in Korea.
The drugs increase the risk of respiratory tract infections and pneumonia, especially in close communities such as care homes and hospitals. The researchers reckon the drugs are responsible for one out of every 200 cases of pneumonia acquired in hospital.
However, young and old are equally susceptible, and everyone who takes the drugs increases their chances of developing pneumonia.
The drugs include proton pump inhibitors – such as Losec, Prilosec and Prevacid – and histamine2 receptor antagonists, including Zantac and Cimetidine. Indigestion drugs are the second leading medication in the world, with sales of around $26bn every year.
(Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2010; December 20; doi: 10.1053/cmaj.092129).