Volume 2, Issue 49
December 3, 2009

What you must avoid
in your next hospital stay

You may have heard that the most common place to catch a nasty infection is the hospital. That makes sense, as there are so many sick people there. But did you know the hospital staff may be part of the cause? It's true. A recent study found that something the hospital staff regularly gives their patients increases the patients' risk for pneumonia by 30%. Fortunately, it's really easy to avoid the infection.

In a new study, researchers looked at every patient admitted into a large, state-of-the-art academic medical center in Boston, Massachusetts. During the three-year study, the researchers looked at a total of 63,878 patients. Each patient they looked at was older than 18 years, and had been hospitalized for at least three days.

Amazingly, the authors discovered that the hospital put more than half of these patients (52%) on acid-suppressive medication for one reason or another.

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Then the researchers determined how many patients developed pneumonia while they were in the hospital. That number turned out to be 2,219 patients. That's 3.5% of everyone who was admitted to the hospital. I think that's an amazing number. It means that no matter what these patients came into the hospital for, one in every 28 of them ended up with pneumonia. And this happened in one of the best, most modern hospitals in the country.

The authors wanted to know why this number was so high, and here's one of the reasons they found. They suspected that taking acid-suppressing medications might be part of the problem.ÿ So they compared the number of patients who developed pneumonia who were not on acid-suppressing drugs to those who were on the drugs. That's when they discovered that a patient who was on one of these medications had a 30% greater chance of developing pneumonia.

The authors said that the probable reason for the increased risk is that these medications modified the bacteria in the upper intestines. And, as a result, they also changed the bacteria in the lungs. But in my mind, even though the study pointed out the increased risk of taking these medications, that is not really the worst part of this story.

The authors stated the worst part in the opening line of their article. There they said, "The use of acid-suppressive medication has been steadily increasing, particularly in the inpatient setting, despite lack of an accepted indication in the majority of these patients." In other words, better than half the time the hospital prescribes the drugs, they patient didn't actually need it. Many of those patients who developed pneumonia, took it for no good reason at all!

Here is a list of the drugs in question:

Omeprazole (brand names: Losec, Prilosec, Zegerid, ocid, Lomac, Omepral, Omez)

Lansoprazole (brand names: Prevacid, Zoton, Inhibitol, Levant, Lupizole)

Dexlansoprazole (brand name: Kapidex)

Esomeprazole (brand names: Nexium, Esotrex)

Pantoprazole (brand names: Protonix, Somac, Pantoloc, Pantozol, Zurcal, Pan)

Rabeprazole (brand names: Rabecid, Aciphex, Pariet, Rabeloc, Dorafem).

So if you or a loved one ever visits a hospital for an extended stay, make sure the staff doesn't try to start you on one of these drugs. It's easy — and relatively safe — money for them. But it's completely unethical. And it could give you pneumonia. If they tell you to take it, just say "No."

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Herzig SJ, Howell MD, Ngo LH, Marcantonio ER. Acid-suppressive medication use and the risk for hospital-acquired pneumonia. JAMA. 2009 May 27;301(20):2120-8.

Copyright 2009 Soundview Publishing, LLC

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