You know them by their brand names: Prilosec, Previcid, Nexium, and that is just to name a few of the very commonly used acid reflux medications that are available over-the-counter or by prescription.  New research suggests they may contribute to cardiovascular disease.

In the medical world they are known as Proton Pump Inhibitors.  Dr. John Cooke of Houston Methodist Hospital led up the research team and told KTRH, “Proton Pump Inhibitors are widely used for gastric acidity by people with stomach problems, and what we found, unexpectedly, is that these widely used drugs impair vascular health by reducing production of something that causes the blood vessels to relax.”  He said this area requires further exploration.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that about 7% of American have used acid reflux medications.  In 2009, they were the third-most taken form of medication used in the United States.  And it is estimated that they produce $13 billion dollars in sales.  Manufacturers might not be enthused by these new findings.

“They have done safety studies,” Dr. Cooke told KTRH.  “But I think they’re going to have to take another look at the data.

Dr. Cooke says the people who should be most concerned are those with risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.  He points out that there are safe alternatives for treating acid reflux and suggests anyone concerned talk to their doctor.