Do heartburn drugs increase risk of heart attacks?

Researchers from Denmark seeking to understand whether proton-pump inhibitors – heartburn drugs like Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid and Protonix – used in combination with the blood thinner Plavix (Clopidogrel) after heart attacks increase patients’ risk of another cardiovascular “event.”

The Danish study tracked 56,406 patients after their discharge from hospitals following treatment for heart attacks from 2000 to 2006. Of those patients, 9,137 were hospitalized for another heart attack, a stroke, other cardiovascular problem or died.

Those patients who were on both a proton-pump inhibitor and Plavix had a 29 percent higher risk compared with those not on the drugs. But the researchers also found that the same heightened risk (29 percent) for those on the proton-pump inhibitors alone.

“Proton Pump Inhibitors seem to be associated with increased risk for adverse cardiovascular outcomes after discharge, regardless of clopidogrel use,” the researcher concluded in the study published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Proton-pump inhibitors were among the top selling drugs in the U.S. with $13.6 billion in sales in 2009, according to IMS health, a healthcare information company with operations in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

AstraZeneca’s Nexium was the nation’s second highest selling drug with $6.3 billion in sales in 2009. Plavix ranked third with $5.6 billion in sales.

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