The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers today that certain stomach acid drugs may increase the risk of a serious intestinal bacteria infection.
The drugs, including Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Zegerid and others, fall into a category called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). They are prescribed to treat acid reflux, stomach ulcers and other conditions, and work by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach.
The bacterial illness is called Clostridium difficile–associated diarrhea (CDAD), and its main symptom is diarrhea that does not improve, according to an FDA statement. The bacteria are commonly referred to as "C. diff."
"Stomach acid is a very important defense mechanism against pathogens. It kills them," said Dr. Edith R. Lederman, who authored a study published in October linking C. diff infections to stomach acid drugs, in an interview with MyHealthNewsDaily at the time.
Patients taking PPIs who develop diarrhea that does not improve may have CDAD, according to the FDA. The agency is working with manufacturers to include information in the drug labels about the increased risk with use of PPIs. PPIs are the third highest-selling class of drugs in the U.S., according to 2010 findings from Consumer Reports.
Lederman's study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, showed nearly half of 485 patients hospitalized at a medical center over a four-year period who had C. difficile infections had previously been prescribed an acid suppressing drug, most of which were either proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Prilosec and Prevacid, or histamine-2 antagonists, such as Tagamet and Zantac.