From heartburn to bone fractures to cancer
Last year, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that popular over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) — a class of drugs used to alleviate heartburn — could possibly increase the risk of bone fractures, especially in people using them long term.
Okay, fair enough, not many people use PPIs on a long term basis, but if you suffer from frequent heartburn or acid reflux then you may very well end up taking this drug too frequently.
A review of 11 studies, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, found that people taking PPIs were 29 per cent more likely to develop bone fractures, long-term users were 30 per cent more likely, and people taking high dose PPIs were 53 per cent more likely to suffer from hip fractures.
Worse still, if you’re female and you develop bone fractures because of over-doing it on PPIs, you could find yourself getting a misdiagnosis for osteoporosis — a disease that makes bones weak and more likely to break… Before you know it, you’ll be taking bisphosphonates — widely prescribed osteoporosis drugs.
Guess what? Studies have already linked bisphosphonates to ‘bone death’ and abnormal fractures, which is rather uncanny for a drug that is supposed to prevent fractures… and more recent findings have now also linked these drugs to the increased risk of oesophageal cancer!
Double the risk
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, the agency is continuing to review data from published studies to evaluate whether taking oral bisphosphonate drugs is associated with an increased risk of oesophageal cancer.
The largest studies the FDA has reviewed, so far, are two UK based epidemiologic studies. One study found no increase in the risk of oesophageal cancer, whilst the second study found a doubling of the risk of oesophageal cancer among patients who had 10 or more prescriptions of the drugs, or who had taken the drugs over 3 years.
Yes, I agree the evidence is conflicting, but double the risk after using bisphosphonates for three years is worth another look, and should certainly not be fobbed off with the FDA’s typical response that the benefits of these drugs outweigh their potential risks… To strengthen their argument the FDA added that oesophageal cancer is rare, especially in women.
Oesophageal cancer may be rare, but it’s still out there and the link between bisphosphonates and oesophageal cancer has been noted, much as the link between these drugs and bone fractures has been noted… as well as the link between PPIs and bone fractures!
So while government agencies are taking their time to review and contemplate the benefit/risk ratio of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, more and more people are suffering side effects that potentially could turn into terrible and painful diseases! This is pretty handy from a money- spinning point of view… more sick people means more drugs sales and if the drugs cause further illness and disease, even better!
It simply is not worth it.
‘FDA Drug Safety Communication: Ongoing safety review of oral osteoporosis drugs (bisphosphonates) and potential increased risk of oesophageal cancer’ published online 21.07.11, fda.gov
“Risks: Acid Reflux Drugs Tied to Bone Fractures,” New York Times (nytimes.com)