A new study may send a shock to millions of at-risk Americans. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology early this week, claims that taking heartburn medication featuring “Proton Pump Inhibitors” (PPI) could increase your chances of contracting the cause of the current pandemic, COVID-19. In fact, it claimed the medication could make you between 2 – 4 times as likely to test positive for the potentially deadly virus (compared to non-users).
The study, which was led by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Dr. Brennan Spiegel, surveyed over 86,000 individuals through online communications. Among them, more than 53,000 people reported taking medication for pain or discomfort associated with gastrointestinal regions of their bodies. Ultimately, over 3,300 of them tested positive for COVID-19.
Although there is an array of medications to deal with gastrointestinal issues, proton pump inhibitors are extremely popular, and accessible. Offered both through prescriptions and over-the-counter, popular medicines featuring PPI’s include, but are not limited to: Prilosec, Prilosec OTC, Zegerid, Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex, Nexium, and Dexilant. These medications act by turning off pumps in cells that release acid into your stomach, and can be taken once or twice daily. The study also determined the more frequently an individual was to take PPI medication, the more likely they would be to contract COVID-19.
The study’s results, however, did not come as a surprise to those conducting it. Because the acid PPI’s block from being released is integral in your body’s fight against infectious bacteria and viruses, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that a lack of that may increase your chances of becoming infected. Although the increase was fairly predictable, the amount of increase was surprising to Dr. Spiegel and his team. The “gut”, which is made up of the stomach and intestines, is one of the largest organs in our immune systems. Therefore, altering it, especially the acid levels used to fend off disease, can be problematic.
With heartburn medications like Zantac already being recalled by the FDA, the potential for harm associated with gastrointestinal medications grows. It’s important to note that the study also concluded medications featuring “histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs)” did not impact your risk of contracting COVID-19. Dr. Spiegel also went on to mention, although the study is meaningful, he felt more studies should continue to be conducted regarding PPI’s and COVID-19 risks.
If you are currently taking proton pump inhibitors, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, you may want to consider an alternative. If no sufficient alternatives are available, you should consider strong precautions to prevent the contraction of COVID-19, such as self-isolation, wearing a mask whenever possible, and maintaining at least 6 feet between yourself and others whenever possible.
You should seek medical assistance if you take proton pump inhibitors and feel as though they may impact your immune system or cause unwanted side effects. It is also possible that those side effects could result in compensation being owed to you. There have been countless amounts of suits against pharmaceutical makers and you should check with your attorney to see if you are eligible. Don’t wait, act now; protect yourself from unnecessary pain and suffering.