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Affairs of the Heartburn: Drugs for stomach acid may hike pneumonia risk

In a study sure to cause indigestion among those who can least abide it, Dutch researchers have found that acid-blocking drugs might boost a person's chance of getting pneumonia. For millions of people who have come to rely on the popular drugs, the news is a bitter pill to swallow.

Acid blockers come in two forms. So-called histamine2-receptor antagonists include ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine (Tagamet), and famotidine (Pepcid AC). More-potent drugs called proton-pump inhibitors include omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and rabeprazole (Aciphex).

The researchers consulted medical records logged between 1995 and 2002 for more than 360,000 people and found that those using acid blockers experienced pneumonia at the rate of about 0.024 case per person each year. That made them 4.5 times as likely to develop pneumonia as were people of a similar age and the same gender who never used the drugs.

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