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Popular Heartburn Drugs Tied to Heart Birth Defects

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If you’re pregnant and taking a proton pump inhibitor – Nexium, Dexilant, Prilosec, Zegerid, Prevacid, Protonix, and Aciphex, as well as over-the-counter versions like Prilosec OTC, Zegerid OTC and Prevacid 24HR. – you might want to look for an alternative. A study released in May found that taking proton pump inhibitors during pregnancy could double the risk of a baby being born with a heart birth defect.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, was presented in May at the Digestive Diseases 2010 conference in May.

“We feel that our data … can have a large public health impact given the fact that GERD is so common during pregnancy,” study co-author Andrew D. Rhim, MD said during a news conference to announce the findings.

The researchers reviewed medical records from The Health Improvement Network to identify 208,951 pregnancies in the United Kingdom from 2000 to 2008. They identified 2,445 cases of cardiac malformations in infants and 19,530 matched controls. The study found that use of proton pump inhibitors during pregnancy was associated with a doubling in the risk of cardiac birth defects in newborns, with omeprazole (brand names Prilosec and Zegerid) associated with the highest risk of cardiac birth defects compared to the other proton pump inhibitors evaluated.

The researchers determined that proton pump inhibitor use was not associated with an increased risk of birth defects in other organs.

About half of women experience acid reflux during pregnancy, and physicians are increasingly prescribing proton pump inhibitors to treat them. The safety of the drugs in pregnancy has never been clearly established.

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