For people beset by arthritis or other chronically painful conditions, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and COX 2 inhibitors offer considerable relief. However, these NSAIDs can cause heartburn and ulcers.
Researchers now report that simultaneously taking an acid-blocking drug with an NSAID significantly lowers the occurrence of both complications.
Gastroenterologist James M. Scheiman of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor and his colleagues randomly assigned 388 people taking an NSAID daily to also get an acid blocker called esomeprazole, one of a new generation of drugs known as proton-pump inhibitors. Another 197 people took an NSAID plus an inert pill. Everyone in the study was considered to be at risk of getting an ulcer, either because they were more than 60 years old or had a history of ulcers. Esomeprazole is marketed as Nexium by AstraZeneca of Wilmington, Del., which funded the study.
After 6 months, 5 percent of the participants taking an NSAID and the acid blocker had developed an ulcer, compared with 12 percent of those getting an NSAID and a placebo, Scheiman reported at a meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Baltimore last month. He predicts that the results will lead to changes in the use of NSAIDs for people at risk of ulcers. Some doctors already prescribe acid blockers for patients taking NSAIDs, he notes.
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