Common medicine used to treat heartburn shows promising results in tuberculosis prevention

There is an interesting trend in medicine science. Researchers are trying to find new uses for already established medicine. This shortens the period of trials and it is easier to get the new medicine approved. Now scientists found that a common gastric acid suppressant could work against tuberculosis.

Lansoprazole costs pennies and is already used very widely. Image credit: MaksimTack via Wikimedia

This common drug, called lansoprazole, could actually work as a pre-emptive measure as well. Scientists from UCL found that people who are using this drug to deal with heartburn, gastritis and ulcers were a third less likely to develop tuberculosis. It is very important to address tuberculosis as one of the most common causes for death. It is killing more people than any other infectious disease every year. There are some prevention methods and treatments are improving all the time, but tuberculosis remains a huge public health concern. Scientists are hoping that there is medicine with no unfavourable side effects that could target Mycobacterium tuberculosis and lansoprazole seems to be a good bet. It even has incredibly low cost.

Scientists analysed data collected during general hospital practices. They wanted to compare numbers of people who were using lansoprazole and developed tuberculosis and those who were infected while taking omeprazole or pantoprazole. Results showed that there were 10 cases of TB per 100,000 person years between people who were taking lansoprazole, when this number between omeprazole or pantoprazole was 15.3. The difference may not look too impressive, but it is actually very important that doctors take it into account, because of raise of drug resistant tuberculosis bacteria.

And this effect can be reached using a common stomach acids drug. Dr Ian Douglas, senior author of the study, said: “We know that medications can have unintended effects; often these are harmful, but occasionally we also find unexpected benefits that may offer new hope for difficult to treat diseases”. Lansoprazole literally costs pennies and therefore can be used in developing countries as a safe prevention method that can save hundreds of thousands of lives. Having in mind lansoprazole is already used very widely, it’s approval for TB prevention should not take too long as all adverse health effects are already researched.

Drug testing and approval process may take years. Having in mind that during these years many people continue dying from preventable diseases, it only makes sense to find an option that requires less time and effort. In this case, while results are not a 100 % conclusive, they are promising and the drug in question is very cheap.


Source: UCL

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