Acid Reflux Drugs May Have Serious Side Effects In Children

Parents should reconsider giving their kids some common acid reflux drugs. Researchers found that frequent use of the medications to treat gastrointestinal disorders in children may have some negative effects.

The new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, highlights that many parents believe that Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), such as Prilosec, Protonix and Nexium, and other medications for adults can also be used to reduce stomach acid in children. The findings suggest there has been a rising number of young patients experiencing the drugs’ negative effects. 

"PPIs are commonly used in children to treat gastrointestinal disorders, and we are seeing an increase in the number of adverse infection events associated with their use," Sara Van Driest, lead researcher and assistant professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, said in a statement. "Because these medications are available over the counter for adults, they are thought to be a safe option for children. But what we have found is that PPIs aren't without risk." 

Van Driest and her team analyzed DNA collected from 670 PPI-exposed infants, ages 0 to 3 years. The researchers divided the participants based on health, chronic health conditions and levels of enzyme function. 

They found that a specific enzyme, called CYP2C19, plays a role in how the acid reflux drugs affect the body. The enzyme mainly works to break down the medications but its functions appear differently in each person.

In some people, CYP2C19 may break down PPIs fast. But others may experience normal, very slow or no effects at all, which affect how the medication is metabolized. 

If the enzyme fails to activate PPIs, drug levels may increase in the body. This increases the risk of infection since the drugs significantly reduce stomach acid, which at normal levels naturally protect the body from dangerous organisms in water and food. 

"The fact that children who have been characterized as normal CYP2C19 metabolizers actually had more infection events than the fast metabolizers tells us that being exposed to these drug levels actually puts the child at risk for having an extra infection event," Van Driest said. 

The researchers hope the study will guide clinicians in prescribing PPIs in children. Van Driest said clinics should consider genetic testing before providing the drugs to young patients, which could help identify if they are a slow, normal or fast metabolizer.

Child A new study shows that frequent use of acid reflux drugs in children may have some side effects, such as increased risk of infections. Pixabay