Study Shows Treating Heartburn May Extend Life of IPF Patients, But at What Cost?

By August 12, 2011 July 10th, 2019 Uncategorized

A new study has found that patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) who received treatment for gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) appear to live longer than the IPF patients that didn’t receive the treatment. This study was conducted by Joyce Lee, MD, clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco.

Of the findings, Lee says, “While preliminary, these findings support a relationship between GERD, chronic microaspiration and IPF. Microaspiration occurs when gastric droplets reflux into the esophagus and enter the airways.”

This study was published online before it reached the print edition of the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. IPF is an incurable lung disease that is characterized by scarring on the lung tissue; this stops the lungs from giving the body the oxygen that it needs to survive. Most people with this condition live for about 2-3 years from the time of diagnosis.

Dr. Lee’s study looked at 204 patients with IPF who were seen at either UCSF or the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., between 2001 and 2008. Each of these clinics documented GERD symptoms and the treatment of the patients; the results were reviewed by the treating doctor. The researchers in the study kept track of the “recorded demographic data, radiologic data of the extent of fibrosis and survival time.”

Of the 204 patients, researchers discovered that the symptoms of GERD were found in 34 percent of them, and a reported history of GERD was found in 45 percent. Of the patients that had been diagnosed with IPF, half of those patients said that they were receiving treatments (like Reglan) for it. As many as 11 patients said that they were having surgery to correct their GERD. This was when Lee and her colleagues found out that the patients who were getting treatment had a significantly longer survival time for their condition than the patients that didn’t have treatment for GERD.

That may sound wonderful; however, some GER treatments can cause as much harm as good. One of those drugs is the popular and controversial Reglan. Reglan has been linked to tardive dyskinesia when taken longer than 12 weeks, and many lawsuits have been filed on behalf of patients who have taken the drug. While it may help survival time of the IPF patients who take Reglan, the drug can actually lessen their quality of life.