January 18, 2017
1 min read

Heartburn drug use in pregnancy may be associated with childhood asthma

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Children whose mothers took medications to treat acid reflux during pregnancy were more likely to develop asthma, according to research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“Acid-suppressive medications, such as H2-receptor antagonists (H2RA) and proton pump inhibitors (PPI), are the main treatment options for dyspepsia and gastroesophageal reflux disease,” Rebecca E. Devine, MPH, of Borders General Hospital in Scotland and colleagues wrote. “These are common problems in pregnancy. Recently, concerns have been raised that prenatal exposure to these medications may increase the risk of allergic disease in the offspring.”

To address this concern, Devine and colleagues searched health care registries and prescription databases linking data about both mother and children. They identified and reviewed eight studies that evaluated the effect prenatal exposure to acid-blocking drugs had on the incidence of allergic disease in offspring. Overall, the studies analyzed included more than 1.3 million children.

Results indicated that the offspring of mothers who had been prescribed acid-suppressive medications during pregnancy were at least one-third more likely to have visited a physician for asthma symptoms during childhood.

“Our study reports an association between the onset of asthma in children and their mothers' use of acid-suppressing medication during pregnancy,” Aziz Sheikh, MD, coauthor of the investigation and codirector of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, said in a news release. “It is important to stress that this association does not prove that the medicines caused asthma in these children and further research is needed to understand this link.”

The potential link between heartburn medications and childhood asthma has not been determined, according to the researchers. Therefore, they suggest that expectant mothers continue to follow existing guidelines.

“We don't yet know if the heartburn medication itself is contributing to the development of asthma in children, or if there is a common factor we haven't discovered yet that causes both heartburn in pregnant women and asthma in their children,” Samantha Walker, MD, director of policy and research at Asthma UK, said in the release. “The study points us towards something that needs further investigation which is why we need to see more research carried out into the causes of asthma, a condition that affects 5.4 million people in the UK alone.” – by Alaina Tedesco

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.