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Nexium, Prilosec Side Effects Linked to C. Diff Diarrhea: Study

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The findings of a new study suggest that side effects of Nexium, Prilosec and similar heartburn drugs may increase the risk of dangerous and sometimes deadly bouts of diarrhea. 

According to research published in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, use of medications from the popular class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) were associated with an increased risk of clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD), echoing an FDA warning issued earlier this year.

The study looked at other research between 1990 and 2010, conducting a meta-analysis that encompassed 23 studies and nearly 300,000 patients. They found that patients who used Nexium, Prilosec or other PPIs were 69% more likely to be diagnosed with CDAD.

Researchers determined that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that heartburn drugs like Nexium increase the incidence of C. Diff diarrhea, leading to recommendations that people should be more cautious in using the medications to prevent gastric ulcers. They also called for the establishment of guidelines on PPI use and further studies.

In February 2012, the FDA alerted health care workers that patients who experience diarrhea while taking Nexium, Prilosec or another PPI, which does not improve, could be suffering from CDAD and said that new warning labels for all PPIs were in development.

Symptoms of C. diff-associated diarrhea from the medications may include:

  • Diarrhea that does not improve
  • Watery stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

In some cases, C. diff diarrhea can develop into more severe intestinal problems. It is caused by the bacterium known as Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) which is often associated with hospital infections.

PPIs reduce the amount of acid in the stomach and are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as well as heartburn, ulcers in the stomach and small intestines, as well as inflammation of the esophagus. Drugs that belong to the class include AcipHex, Dexilant, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec (and generic omeprazole), Protonix, Vimovo and Zegerid.

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