Although lacking real scientific evidence, for nearly 20 years, doctors believed severe asthma symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and breathlessness were triggered, in part, by acid reflux. Asthma sufferers were often prescribed heartburn medication in an effort to help their asthma symptoms.
Now lung experts from around the U.S.are calling on physicians to suspend the routine use of potent heartburn medications in asthmatics solely to temper recurrent attacks of wheezing, coughing and breathlessness. Research finds it’s ineffective and unnecessarily expensive.
Reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine researchers at 20 medical centers in the United States collected detailed health reports on 412 men and women who still have asthma symptoms despite drug therapy. The 402 patients participating in the study were randomly given either 80 milligrams of esomeprazole (Nexium) or a placebo. Patients in both groups had similar numbers of poor asthma control episodes, and there were no differences in their lung function or other asthma symptoms. These results show that esomeprazole was no more effective than a placebo for the treatment of asthma.
“Now we know that we should not be using these medications for the treatment of asthma if the patient does not have reflux symptoms,” said Lewis Smith, M.D., a professor of medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Based upon their doctors recommendations, it is estimated that asthma sufferers spend as much as $10 million each year on prescription heartburn medication, because they believe it will help control attacks of wheezing, coughing and breathlessness. About 23 million people in the U.S. have asthma. An estimated 12 million people with asthma have an “attack” each year, and 2 million visit the emergency room.
“The bottom line here is that proton pump inhibitors do not improve control of asthma on their own,” says Robert A. Wise, M.D, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
New England Journal of Medicine
John Hopkins University