Prescription antacids linked to allergies

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  Last updated August 5, 2019 at 4:13 pm


Medicines prescribed to reduce your stomach acid have been associated with an increased risk of developing allergies, say Austrian researchers.

medication_antacids_allergy medication

Credit: Ana Maria Serrano

A team from the University of Vienna found that people who needed prescription antacids were twice as likely to need anti-allergy medications in subsequent years.

They also found that women and older individuals were most at risk.

The team of researchers, studied prescription medication records for over 8 million people, around 97 per cent of the countries total population.

Larger proteins may be to blame

Stomach acid helps with digestion by breaking down food, absorbing nutrients and killing bacteria. Antacids, or stomach acid inhibitors, hinder this process allowing larger protein fragments to make their way into the intestine. The researchers suggest that it is these larger proteins that may explain the rise in allergies as they are more likely to trigger an immune response.

Elena Schneider, a pharmacist from the University of Melbourne, who was not involved in the study says that this phenomenon has been observed “in previous animal studies and a small group of patients” but “for the first time, the authors of this study investigated how much this process actually affects the population”.

There were some limitations to the study that the researchers acknowledge might impact the findings, including the fact that they monitored prescriptions rather than what people actually consumed.

They also highlight that anyone who receives an antacid prescription is more likely to receive other medications in general which could influence the link between antacids and allergic drug prescriptions.

The downside to having antacids

Nikolai Petrovsky, from the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University, warns that data from these types of studies “needs to be treated with caution, as it cannot be used to establish a causal link”.

Irrespective of this, the study highlights a potential downside to having high prescription rates for antacids, and Petrovsky suggests raises the question of whether these medications are being overused.

The overuse of antacids can have detrimental effects, and although sometimes these medications are necessary, we need to be wary of how much we are using them agrees Schneider.

“Certain people with certain medical conditions need their appropriate therapy for long-term acid suppression, but the majority of people with heartburn and reflux should not be using these drugs long-term,” she says.

You can read the full expert reaction here.


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About the Author

Cale Matthews

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The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) is an independent, not-for-profit service for the news media, giving journalists direct access to evidence-based science and expertise. We aim to better inform public debate on the major issues of the day by improving links between the media and the scientific community. The Centre works with journalists to help them cover science as well as identify the science angles in everyday news stories and works with the scientific community to help them interact more effectively with the media and ensure that their voices are heard on issues of national importance.

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