Acid-suppressing drugs are among the most popular pills in the pharmacy. They are prescribed under brand names such as Aciphex, Nexium and Protonix. Over the counter heartburn medicines such as Prevacid and Prilosec are also widely used. These drugs and medicines such as Tagamet or Zantac can increase the risk that a person will develop pneumonia. South Korean researchers analyzed 31 international studies and found that patients on heartburn pills were 25 percent more likely to catch pneumonia than people not taking acid-suppressing drugs.
This is not the first time proton-pump inhibitors have been implicated in a higher risk of pneumonia. By reducing acid in the stomach, these drugs may knock out the first line of defense and allow nasty germs access to the airways. Another complication that has been reported with PPIs is digestive tract infections such as Clostridium difficile or C diff. This can cause intractable diarrhea and is hard to eradicate.
[Canadian Medical Association Journal, online Dec. 20, 2010]