Study shows association between acid-reducing drugs & migraine

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
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Association between acid-reducing drugs & migraine
Rep.Image | Courtesy: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

People who take acid-reducing drugs may have a higher risk of migraine and other severe headache than people who do not take these medications, according to a study published in the online issue of Neurology Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. 

The acid-reducing drugs include proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole and esomeprazole, histamine H2-receptor antagonists, or H2 blockers, such as cimetidine and famotidine, and antacid supplements. Notably, The study does not prove that acid-reducing drugs cause migraine, it only shows an association.

Acid reflux is when stomach acid flows into the esophagus, usually after a meal or when lying down. People with acid reflux may experience heartburn and ulcers. People with frequent acid reflux may develop gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which can lead to cancer of the esophagus.

Margaret Slavin_Link between acid reflex-drugs & migraine
Margaret Slavin
Study Author,
University of Maryland in College Park

“Given the wide usage of acid-reducing drugs and these potential implications with migraine, these results warrant further investigation. These drugs are often considered to be overprescribed, and new research has shown other risks tied to long-term use of proton pump inhibitors, such as an increased risk of dementia.”

For the study, researchers looked at data on 11,818 people who provided information on the use of acid-reducing drugs and whether they had migraine or severe headaches in the past three months.

A total of 25 percent of participants taking proton pump inhibitors had migraine or severe headaches, compared to 19 percent of those who were not taking the drugs. 25 percent of those taking H2 blockers had severe headaches, compared to 20 percent of those who were not taking those drugs. And 22 percent of those taking antacid supplements had severe headaches, compared to 20 percent of those not taking antacids.

When researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect the risk of migraine, such as age, sex and use of caffeine and alcohol, they found that people taking proton pump inhibitors were 70 percent more likely to have migraine than people not taking proton pump inhibitors. Those taking H2 blockers were 40 percent more likely and those taking antacid supplements were 30 percent more likely.

“It’s important to note that many people do need acid-reducing medications to manage acid reflux or other conditions, and people with migraine or severe headache who are taking these drugs or supplements should talk with their doctors about whether they should continue,” Slavin said.

Slavin noted that the study looked only at prescription drugs. Some of the drugs became available for over-the-counter use at non-prescription strength during the study period, but the use of these over-the-counter drugs was not included in this study.

Other studies have shown that people with gastrointestinal conditions may be more likely to have migraine, but Slavin said that the relationship is not likely to fully explain the tie between acid-reducing drugs and migraine found in the study. A limitation of the study is that a small number of people were taking the drugs, especially the H2 blockers.

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