Good Press for PPIs

A lot of medical publications focus on infrequent complications of medications.  This is problematic for many who have trouble understanding absolute risks and relative risks.  If a medication increases the relative risk of a rare problem, the absolute risk to the individual remains quite low.

For proton pump inhibitors, there has been a fair amount of focus on potential complications.  In my view, some of this is due to the fact that there are many taking these medications who may not be receiving much benefit.   Many of the adverse effects for most patients would result in a low absolute risk. In fact, stopping PPIs in those who have indications for their usage could result in significantly greater harm.

For those who’ve been thinking that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been getting a ‘bum rap,’ here are a few publications have highlighted their success in problems other than ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

  • AJ Lucendo et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 13-22.
  • RMM van Aerts et al.  Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 147-52.

The first study, a systemic review and meta-analysis of PPIs in inducing remission for eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).  In all 33 studies (11 prospective) of adults and children were included with 619 patients. Key findings:

  • Clinical response was noted in 60.8%
  • Histologic remission (<15 Eos/hpf in this study) in 50.5%
  • In prospective studies, once-daily therapy had similar effectiveness to twice daily (55.9% vs. 49.7%)
  • pH monitoring did not predict response to PPI therapy

My take: While the conclusion from this study (by the authors) is that PPIs should be considered a first-line therapy for EoE, they also indicate that the findings need to interpreted cautiously due to poor-quality evidence, heterogeneity of the studies, and publication bias.  Despite these limitations, most experts agree that PPI therapy should be undertaken prior to use of other treatments like diets or topical steroids for EoE.

The second study showed that patients with hereditary hemochromatosis needed less phlebotomy if they were taking PPIs.  The study was a retrospective study which divided patients into 3 groups, including a paired group of 12 patients who had ferritin levels and number of phlebotomies compared for 3 years prior and 3 years after the start of PPI therapy.  In this group, phlebotomies were needed 3.16 times per year prior to PPI and only 0.5 per year subsequently (to keep ferritin less than 100 mcg/L).  The authors note that studies have shown that PPIs reduced postprandial iron absorption.  PPIs effect on iron metabolism “acts at cellular level in the endosomes and in the stomach, and it seems to have no influence on the hepcidin regulation.”  For PPI fans, the editorial (pgs 153-55) comments that “an attractive aspect of this strategy is the safety of PPIs, which has been shown even with long-term use.’ [Aliment Phamacol Ther 2015; 41: 1162-74]

My take: While this study is not recommending that patients with hereditary hemochromatosis start PPI therapy, those who are taking PPI therapy may need less frequent phlebotomy.

So, in addition to patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcer disease, patients with eosinophilic esophagitis and those with hereditary hemochromatosis often benefit from PPI therapy.

Related blog posts:

Half Dome, Yosemite

Half Dome, Yosemite

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