December 20, 2005

Stomach acid drugs raise risk of diarrhea -study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Popular anti-heartburn drugs such as
proton-pump inhibitors that block stomach acid production
heighten the risk of an increasingly common infectious form of
diarrhea, researchers said on Monday.

Taking such drugs as AstraZeneca's Nexium and Losec or
their generic versions tripled the risk of diarrhea blamed on
the Clostridium difficile bacteria, the study concluded.

Frequently prescribed anti-heartburn drugs called H2
antagonists that include GlaxoSmithKline's Zantac were found to
double the risk of the bacterial diarrhea, the report said.

The drugs reduce gastric acid, opening the way for the
bacteria to multiply in the digestive system.

Clostridium is the third-most common type of infectious
diarrhea in patients aged 75 and older, study author Sandra
Dial of McGill University, Montreal, wrote in this week's issue
of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Exposure to Clostridium difficile bacteria, which causes
infection and inflammation of the intestine, previously
occurred mostly during hospital stays, but cases have
increasingly been contracted in community settings, the study
said. The number of community-acquired cases rose to 22 per
100,000 people in 2004 from 1 in 100,000 a decade earlier, it

Recent outbreaks in the United States and in the Canadian
province of Quebec indicate strains of the bacteria may be
increasingly deadly, according to previous research.

While antibiotics formerly blamed for outbreaks of the
illness have declined in use, the acid-blocking drugs have
become steadily more popular to treat ulcers and conditions
such as gastric reflux disease, the report said.