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Acid reflux medication doesn't help kids with asthma, new study shows

About nine million children in the United States have asthma.
National Institutes of Health
About nine million children in the United States have asthma.

For years doctors have prescribed acid blockers to children with no symptoms of acid reflux to try to help control their asthma.

But a new study shows the anti-reflux medicine isn't helping.

The research followed more than 300 children between the ages of 6 and 17. In addition to an inhaled steroid, about half the children were given an acid blocker for six months, and half a placebo. None of the children had symptoms of acid reflux.

Pediatrician Dr. Leonard Bacharier helped lead the study at Washington University, one of 19 asthma centers to participate in the nationwide trial.

Bacharier says the children who received the acid blocker lansoprazole had no better control of their asthma than those who received a placebo.

"And what was even more interesting is that in the 43 percent of children who actually had acid reflux on pH probe, treatment with lansoprazole provided them with no asthma benefit either," Bacharier said.

In fact, Bacharier says the acid reflux medication made things worse.

"There was actually an increased risk of more respiratory infections in the children who received the active medication than those who received placebo," Bacharier said. "So there actually was a downside to receiving the therapy."

In the United States, the use of acid controllers in children has tripled in the past decade, from 875,000 prescriptions in 2002 to 2.6 million in 2009.

The current study was funded by the American Lung Association and the National Institutes of Health. The medications used in the study were provided by the drug makers.

The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.