Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are often used to treat elderly patients for heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcers. A study published earlier this year in the Journal of American Medical Association Neurology found that these inhibitors may increase the risk of dementia.
The study began in 2004 with more than 73,000 dementia-free patients aged 75 or older. Researchers tracked the neuropsychological health and medical history of these patients through 2011 and discovered those who used PPIs regularly were 44% more likely to develop dementia.
“The avoidance of PPI medication may prevent the development of dementia,” the researchers reported.
They went to to add that the study is limited to statistical association only and further research is necessary to explore the “possible underlying causal biological mechanism.”
PPIs are, of course, only one factor among many that contribute to an individual’s level of risk. Diet, exercise, age, other medical conditions and medications all influence a person’s odds of developing dementia.
Dr. Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK pointed out in an interview with the Daily Mail that while this study suggests a tie between the regular use of certain drugs and dementia, it does not prove PPIs are a direct cause.
“There can be many reasons why two factors associate with each other and the next step will be to investigate the possible reasons for this link,” she said. “Studies like this, which harness large amounts of medical data to highlight trends in health and disease, are incredibly useful to inform future, detailed, follow-up studies into risk factors for conditions like dementia.”
Read more about the study at online at the Royal Pharmeceutical Society.