A very commonly taken group of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPI's) used to treat heartburn, acid reflux or peptic ulcers, are associated with an increased incidence of dementia by 44 per cent, a new study of people over 75 years in Germany finds.
A popular type of indigestion and heartburn pill taken by millions of people could increase the risk of dementia by 44 per cent, according to a study. Researchers found that people aged 75 or older who regularly take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a group of drugs that includes omeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole, esomeprazole and rabeprazole had an increased risk of the disease.
'The avoidance of PPI medication may contribute to the prevention of dementia' said the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases.
The German study was based on the insurance data of 74,000 people over 75 from 2004 to 2011.
It identified 29,510 patients who developed dementia during the study period. But among the 2,950 of the total who regularly took PPIs, a greater proportion had dementia, giving them a 44 per cent increased risk compared with those who had not taken PPIs. The scientists, from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, acknowledged that they had been unable to identify different risk factors for dementia.
They wrote in the journal JAMA Neurology: "The present study can only provide a statistical association between PPI use and risk of dementia. The possible underlying causal biological mechanism has to be explored in future studies. "The avoidance of PPI medication may contribute to the prevention of dementia."
Separate US research by Stanford University last year found a possible link between PPIs and heart attacks. Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer's Research UK said: "This study doesn't tell us definitively that the drugs directly cause the condition. The next step will be to investigate the possible reasons for this link."
John Smith, of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which represents firms making over-the-counter drugs, said: "All over-the-counter medicines have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and are rigorously assessed for safety and efficacy. "Once on the market, their safety is continually monitored in light of any emerging evidence. Those who may be concerned should speak to their GP or pharmacist before taking any medicine."