June 1, 2009

Common Drugs Boost Pneumonia Risk at Hospitals

Hospitalized patients who are given acid-suppressive medications are 30 percent more likely to develop pneumonia during their hospital stay, a new study found.

Between 40 and 70 percent of hospitalized patients receive acid-suppressive medications, such as proton-pump inhibitors, which has raised concern among some researchers who say the drugs are sometimes prescribed for symptoms that are not supported by research and data.

Researchers in Boston studied the records of nearly 64,000 patients who were admitted to a hospital for three days or more from January 2004 through December 2007. All of the patients were 18 or older and none were admitted to the intensive care unit.

Fifty-two percent of the patients were given acid-suppressive medications, which included any order for a proton-pump inhibitor or histamine2 receptor antagonist. Of that group, 83 percent received proton-pump inhibitors, 23 percent received histamine2 receptor antagonist and some received both.

Receiving acid-suppressive medication was associated with a 30 percent increased odds of hospital-acquired pneumonia, researchers said. They said it's believed these medications increase the risk of pneumonia by modifying upper gastrointestinal bacteria, and, as a result, respiratory bacteria.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2009;301:2120-2128