Piling on PPIs -Now Concerns about Dementia

A recent study (see abstract below -from Mike Hart) indicates the possibility that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) could increase the risk of dementia to a small degree.  Despite the big numbers, this study cannot adequately control for numerous factors that could influence these results.  As is often said, association does not prove causation.  Nevertheless, this study is another reminder to use PPIs when indicated and to use them for the appropriate length of therapy.

Here’s NBC News Narrative: Popular Heartburn Drugs Linked to Dementia


Association of Proton Pump Inhibitors With Risk of Dementia: A Pharmacoepidemiological Claims Data Analysis

Willy Gomm, PhD1; Klaus von Holt, MD, PhD1; Friederike Thomé, MSc1; Karl Broich, MD2; Wolfgang Maier, MD1,3; Anne Fink, MSc1,4; Gabriele Doblhammer, PhD1,4,5,6; Britta Haenisch, PhD1

JAMA Neurol
. Published online February 15, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.4791

Importance  Medications that influence the risk of dementia in the elderly can be relevant for dementia prevention. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are widely used for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases but have also been shown to be potentially involved in cognitive decline.

Objective  To examine the association between the use of PPIs and the risk of incident dementia in the elderly.

Design, Setting, and Participants  We conducted a prospective cohort study using observational data from 2004 to 2011, derived from the largest German statutory health insurer, Allgemeine Ortskrankenkassen (AOK). Data on inpatient and outpatient diagnoses (coded by the German modification of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision) and drug prescriptions (categorized according to the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification System) were available on a quarterly basis. Data analysis was performed from August to November 2015.

Exposures  Prescription of omeprazole, pantoprazole, lansoprazole, esomeprazole, or rabeprazole.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The main outcome was a diagnosis of incident dementia coded by the German modification of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision. The association between PPI use and dementia was analyzed using time-dependent Cox regression. The model was adjusted for potential confounding factors, including age, sex, comorbidities, and polypharmacy.

Results  A total of 73 679 participants 75 years of age or older and free of dementia at baseline were analyzed. The patients receiving regular PPI medication (n = 2950; mean [SD] age, 83.8 [5.4] years; 77.9% female) had a significantly increased risk of incident dementia compared with the patients not receiving PPI medication (n = 70 729; mean [SD] age, 83.0 [5.6] years; 73.6% female) (hazard ratio, 1.44 [95% CI, 1.36-1.52]; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance  The avoidance of PPI medication may prevent the development of dementia. This finding is supported by recent pharmacoepidemiological analyses on primary data and is in line with mouse models in which the use of PPIs increased the levels of β-amyloid in the brains of mice. Randomized, prospective clinical trials are needed to examine this connection in more detail.

Related blog post: Proton Pump Inhibitors Webinar

Unrelated article (from Ben Gold): J Molina-Infante et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2015; 110: 1567-1575.  This study examined 75 patients (mean age 38 years) with proton-pump inhibitor responsive esophageal eosinophilia (PPI-REE).  55 (73%) had long-term sustained histologic remission with low-dose PPI therapy (20 mg once or twice daily). In addition, the article noted that 9 of 10 relapsers with distal eosinophilia were noted to have a CYP2C19 rapid metabolizer genotype and regained histologic remission with dose intensification.

Briefly noted: AI Sharara et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 317-21.  Among 414 who met inclusion criteria (at least 6 months of PPI usage and at least 1 serum magnesium level), 57 (13.8%) had at least 1 low serum magnesium –44 of these patients had recognizable causes (eg. diuretics, chronic diarrhea).  Of the remainder who continued with PPI therapy, the level was normal at final measurement and only mildly low levels were noted previously.  Thus, in patients without other reasons for low magnesium, the authors found that use of a PPI does not appear to be associated with hypomagnesemia.


The Prosecution Rests…PPIs on Trial

For physicians who use proton pump inhibitors in a cavalier manner, a recent review (CM Stark, CM Nylund. J Pediatr 168: 16-22) provides a sobering reassessment of the potential side effects and potential complications of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).  After finishing the article, the impression left was of a lawyer putting these medications on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Here were the key points:

Infectious disease: PPI-induced hypochloridia is known to alter the gastrointestinal bacteria motif, allowing certain normally absent or depleted pathogenetic microorganisms to survive and proliferate.  This can lead to all of the following:

  • small bowel bacterial overgrowth
  • increased gastrointestinal infections (including Clostridium difficile, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and acute viral gastroenteritis)
  • pneumonia (particularly community acquired pneumonia and hospital acquired pneumonia)
  • upper respiratory infections
  • spontaneous bacterial peritonitis.

The magnitude of these associations is discussed in detail in the review.

Gastrointestinal disease: Use of PPIs has been associated with an increased incidence of the following:

  •  celiac disease which persisted after excluding prescriptions in the year preceding diagnosis (association does not prove causation)
  • benign gastric fundic polyps
  • rebound acid hypersecretion

Malabsorption: PPIs can affect absorption of multiple nutrients, though more studies are needed, particularly in the pediatric age group.

  • calcium: “there is significant evidence to suggest that PPI use can alter calcium and bone metabolism…associated with an increased risk of hip fractures in older adults….It is reasonable to hypothesize that PPI administration during adolescence and early adulthood could decrease an individual’s peak bone density.”
  • magnesium: PPI have been hypothesized to affect magnesium absorption.  “A study of 366 Canadian patients hospitalized with hypomagnesemia…found PPIs [were] associated with a 43% increased risk of hospitalization.”  More studies are needed to determine the whether this risk is truly significant.
  • iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin C absorption may be affected by PPI use.


  • Cardiac: In adults, PPI use has been associated with adverse cardiac events.  The pathophysiology could have been pediatric implications.  PPIs can increase asymmetrical dimethylarginine (ADMA) which is an endogenous inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase.
  • Renal: PPIs have been associated with cases of acute interstitial nephritis
  • Microbiome: “PPIs alter the microbiome.”  Decreased diversity of the microbiome has been associated with a large number of medical conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, necrotizing enterocolitis as well as many non-gastrointestinal conditions.  “The temporality of dysbiosis and subsequent disease development has  not been explored fully for most conditions.”

My take: PPIs can be life-saving and disease-altering medications.  At the same time, (per authors) “PPIs should not be prescribed without consideration for all short- and long-term side effects.”

Related blog posts:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 6.33.04 PM

This Webinar Will Review Issues with Regard to Optimal PPI Usage and Includes My Esteemed Colleagues (Dr. Gold and Dr. Garza)

This NASPGHAN Webinar Will Review Issues with Regard to Optimal PPI Usage and Includes My Esteemed Partners (Dr. Gold and Dr. Garza)

PPI Side Effects: “Dissecting the Evidence”

While proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are used extensively for acid-related diseases and have been around for nearly 25 years, there have been a number of reports about potential side effects.  As a drug class, PPIs have a very good safety profile.  A recent article reviews some controversial adverse effects and summarizes the evidence for and against (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2013; 11: 458-64).

I. Calcium/bone effects.  After reviewing a number of studies, the authors conclude: “There is no good evidence to establish that PPI use has a significant risk for bone density loss or osteroporotic-related fractures….Supplemental calcium is not recommended or justified solely because of PPI use.”

II. Iron. “Although it is conceivable that PPI therapy may reduce absorption of nonheme iron and retard iron pool replenishment, this effect has not been well-studied or evident from widespread use in clinical practice.

III.  Magnesium.  “The FDA recommendation to consider checking magnesium levels before starting is not practical, in particular for the over-the-counter market. In patients who may be predisposed to …ongoing magnesium loss…it may be reasonable to follow…Given the rarity of the reports and no controlled studies to delineate the mechanisms, it is important for health care providers to be aware of this” (rare reports of profound hypomagnesemia).

IV. Pneumonia. “Small relative risk associated with short-term and high-dose PPI use.  These relationships, however, do not offer a definitive explanation for the relative risk” due to the studies and confounding factors.

V. Clostridium difficile.  “To date, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that there is a definitive relationship between PPI use and C difficile infection…clinicians should be aware of this potential relationship.”

VI. Traveler’s diarrhea.  “The data…were overall supportive of no associated risk, albeit there were a few specific case reports suggesting a remote causal association.”

VII. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. “The relationship between PPI use and the development of SIBO is still not understood.”

VIII. Interstitial nephritis.  Extremely rare. “Investigators…did not find enough evidence to support a causative relationship.”

IX. Methotrexate.  “Coadministration of PPIs with high-dose methotrexate appears to be correlated with delayed methotrexate elimination.”

Also discussed: Vitamin B12, Clopidogrel, Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis

The authors conclude that the above reported associations have received considerable attention.  “Because PPIs are overprescribed in many patients, …the clinical effects always should be reviewed and attempts should be justified to stop any therapy that may not be needed.”

Related blog entries: