Acid reflux drugs and memory problems

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 8:45 AM EDT
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Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may sometimes experience acid reflux, a burning sensation that starts in the stomach, and moves up into the chest and esophagus. Now, a new study suggests that medicine taken to relieve acid reflux could cause other side effects.

Proton pump inhibitors, like over-the-counter drugs, help reduce acid production in the stomach. But a new study by researchers at Ohio State University finds the chronic use of PPIs could be causing memory problems. The researchers studied breast cancer patients in three clinical trials. They noted their prescription and over the counter medication, then reported any concentration or memory problems. Researchers say the memory problems were between 20 and 29 percent more severe than those reported by patients who didn’t use PPIs.

Annelise Madison, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at Ohio State University explained, “The original clinical trials that showed that these were safe drugs to consume were very short term in nature. They were typically less than six months. I think it warrants some caution in using proton pump inhibitors, especially among a population that’s already at risk for gastrointestinal issues and potential cognitive decline.”

Madison says it’s not clear whether the memory loss in cancer patients is temporary or would resolve itself at the end of treatment. It’s an area she says needs additional study.

A study published earlier this year looking at acid reflux drugs in the general population suggests an association between chronic use of PPIs and a higher risk of dementia in both men and women over the age of 75. Chronic use is described as at least one three-month prescription in an 18-month period.

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