Data, data and more data are questioning the side effects of some key drugs. As published in this week's medical journals, new studies have tagged proton pump inhibitors, Parkinsons' drugs, and birth control pills with some unexpected side effects.
First, the PPIs: The incredibly popular stomach drugs--which include such branded blockbusters as AstraZeneca's (NYSE: AZN) Nexium pill--appear to be associated with fractures in post-menopausal women and with higher rates of bacterial infections, the Wall Street Journal reports. One study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at 130,487 post-menopausal women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative and found that those taking PPI meds had a 25 percent increase in the risk of fractures over about eight years. Those using another type of stomach drug--H2 blockers--saw their fracture risk grow by 8 percent.
Also published in this week's Archives is a study suggesting that PPIs increase the risk of a bacterial infection called C. difficile, which causes severe diarrhea, by about 74 percent. Those taking PPIs more than once a day more than doubled their risk of acquiring C. diff, an infection that has been plaguing hospitals--and patients--at an increasing rate.
The new Archives of Neurology links Parkinson's disease treatments with impulse-control disorders. Parkinson's meds have been linked to compulsive gambling in some patients, but this is the first study to look at other impulse-control problems such as compulsive buying (found in 5.9 percent of all medicated patients), binge eating (4.3 percent), and compulsive sex (3.5 percent), in addition to pathological gambling (5 percent). Patients most likely to develop one of these problems were those using a combination of levodopa (e.g., Roche's Laradopa) and a dopamine agonist such as GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE: GSK) Requip or Boehringer Ingelheim's Mirapex.
Finally, a German study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that young women who use hormonal birth control such as contraceptive pills and patches are at a significantly higher risk of sexual dysfunction, such as low libido and arousal. The lowest sexual-function scores in the study came from women using injected or patch forms of hormonal birth control.