Acid Reflux Medicine and Birth Defects

There is conflicting and confusing information regarding the dangers to fetuses when exposed to Proton Pump Inhibitor medication, or PPI. These types of medications include Nexium, Dexilant, Prilosec, Zegerid, Protonix and Prevacid among others.

The question has been examined by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Last November researchers published a report suggesting that the risk of birth defects with PPI medications posed no risk of major birth defects. However, in that same issue of NEJM, Dr. Allen Mitchell from Boston University School of Medicine offered his own opinions. He suggests that more research is needed.

The study may provide some reassurance, but “the authors acknowledge, these data provide only a broad—and incomplete—overview.” Dr. Mitchell points out that drugs that cause birth defects tend to increase the risks of specific birth defects, not birth defects overall. “The study had insufficient power to consider the risks of specific birth defects in relation to specific PPIs,” he says.

At best, the information is incomplete and confusing. Omeprazole, for example, the generic name for Prilosec, Prilosec OTC, and Zegerid carries a category C warning from the FDA, which means it’s unknown whether will harm an unborn baby. And previous reports suggest that there positive connection between cardiac birth defects and use PPIs during the first trimester. Currently women are seeking legal advice on the issue, and attorneys are reviewing cases.

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