Do popular acid-suppressing meds increase risk of COVID-19?
New findings point to yes.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found an independent, dose-response (i.e. higher the dose, higher the risk) relationship between proton pump inhibitor (e.g. Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec) use and positive COVID-19 results. The authors adjusted for a wide range of variables, including comorbidities, such as hypertension.
PPIs suppress stomach acid so doctors prescribe them for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Those of you with IBD might have taken a PPI in conjunction with prednisone and/or an NSAID to help prevent medication-induced stomach ulcers. But we need stomach acid to kill pathogens and inactivate certain viruses. (By the way, these are just two of the many reasons we NEED stomach acid). Previous studies have shown that PPI use increases the odds for GI infections.
How is this relevant to COVID-19? According to one author of the study, Dr. Brennan Spiegel, “coronavirus sheds into saliva in >90% of patients” meaning it can be easily swallowed. If it encounters a stomach with low acid, as might occur when taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), then a larger viral load may enter the intestines.”
If these findings concern you, here’s what we suggest you do:
- Check in with your MD to find out if the potential risks of reducing or stopping your PPI outweigh the potential benefits. Be sure you’re on the lowest effective dose for your condition. Find out if you’re a candidate for an H2 blocker, which might be a safer alternative.
- Do NOT stop your medication without speaking with your prescribing MD.
- Read this supplemental fact sheet with information and answers to FAQs about the study.