People who take acid reflux medications called proton pump inhibitors for four-and-a-half years or more may have a higher risk of dementia compared to people who do not take these medications, according to new research published in the August 9, 2023, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study only looked at prescription medications. Over-the-counter medications were excluded.
This study does not prove that acid reflux drugs cause dementia; it only shows an association.
The study included 5,712 people, age 45 and older, who did not have dementia at the start of the study. They had an average age of 75.
Researchers determined if participants took acid reflux drugs by reviewing their medications during study visits and during yearly phone calls. Of the participants, 1,490 people, or 26%, had taken the drugs. Participants were then divided into four groups based on whether they had taken the drugs and for how long, as follows: people who did not take the drugs; those who took the drugs for up to 2.8 years; those who took them for 2.8 to 4.4 years; and people who took them for more than 4.4 years.
Participants were then followed for a median duration of 5.5 years. During this time, 585 people, or 10%, developed dementia.
Of the 4,222 people who did not take the drugs, 415 people developed dementia, or 19 cases per 1,000 person-years. Person-years represent both the number of people in the study and the amount of time each person spends in the study. Of the 497 people who took the drugs for more than 4.4 years, 58 people developed dementia, or 24 cases per 1,000 person years.
After adjusting for factors such as age, sex and race, as well as health-related factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes, researchers found people who had been taking acid reflux drugs for more than 4.4 years had a 33% higher risk of developing dementia than people who never took the drugs.
Researchers did not find a higher risk of dementia for people who took the drugs for fewer than 4.4 years.