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Older Acid Suppressors Work Better for Hospitalized Patients

Two different categories of medication are commonly used to protect the gastrointestinal tract from damage. One type, called H2 blockers, consists of drugs like Tagamet or Zantac. The other type, called proton pump inhibitors or PPIs, are newer and more powerful acid suppressors such as Prilosec, Prevacid or Nexium.

Patients who are hospitalized and on ventilators are susceptible to digestive tract damage and bleeding so they are usually given a medication to prevent this complication. Many doctors expected that PPIs would work better because they are stronger. But this multihospital study involving over 35,000 patients revealed that this assumption was mistaken.

Patients given a PPI were more likely to suffer a GI bleed, pneumonia, or a C diff infection. All of these are serious complications of hospital care. Older drugs like famotidine and ranitidine were more effective at preventing bleeding and less likely to be linked to infections.

[JAMA Internal Medicine, online Feb. 17, 2014]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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