Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are some of the most widely prescribed and purchased medications in the world. You might think that heartburn drugs are only used to treat adults. However, PPIs have gained popularity with pediatricians. Many infants are given PPIs to treat gastroesophageal reflux conditions.

There are obvious risks for adults who take a proton pump inhibitor, such as Nexium or Prevacid. A new study reveals that there are risks for young children, too. Research has revealed that taking PPIs as an infant can increase the risk of bone fracture later in childhood.

Study of Infants and PPIs

An infant is a child under the age of one. Children this age tend to have reflux issues. When spit-ups interfere with the child’s well being and overall happiness, parents search for ways to resolve the problem. Doctors have relied heavily on PPIs for short-term relief.

A recent study focused on 850,000 children aged 14 and younger. Out of those kids, 97,000 had taken medication to treat a reflux condition as an infant.

Researchers discovered that the children who had taken a proton pump inhibitor were more likely than the other kids in the study to break a bone later in childhood. In fact, the risk of fracture in kids who used a PPI increased by 23 percent.

Acid Plays a Critical Role in Bone Health

Proton pump inhibitors prevent the stomach from excreting gastric acid. This can offer temporary relief from acid reflux, GERD, and heartburn. However, it’s dangerous to suppress stomach acid for an extended period of time. Acid plays a vital role in the body’s health and well being. Limiting the body’s supply can have devastating consequences.

Infants are always developing. The absorption of calcium is critical for strong, healthy bones. Gastric acid is necessary for this process. When stomach acid is suppressed, an infant’s growing body is unable to absorb the calcium it needs. This could help to explain why children are more vulnerable to broken bones if they’ve taken a PPI as a child. Their bones lacked critical building blocks during early childhood development.

This latest study may be used as evidence in future proton pump inhibitor lawsuits across the country.