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Acid reflux link to asthma now in doubt

Heartburn drugs don’t help patients avoid severe asthma attacks

Asthma patients who take heartburn drugs don’t have fewer serious asthma attacks than those not getting the drugs, researchers report in the April 9 New England Journal of Medicine. The findings cast doubt on a long-held assumption that even unnoticed heartburn exacerbates asthma.

Many doctors prescribe proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium or Prilosec — used for heartburn, or acid reflux — for asthma patients. Earlier studies have suggested that acid reflux worsens asthma by irritating nerves that serve the windpipe and esophagus or by sending stomach acid up the esophagus and down into the windpipe and lungs, says study coauthor Robert Wise, a pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

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