Intervention Cuts PPI Use, No Worsening of Acid-Related Diseases

Proton pump inhibitor (PPI) use can safely be reduced by deprescribing efforts coupled with patient and clinician education, according to a retrospective study involving more than 4 million veterans.

After 1 year, the intervention was associated with a significant reduction in PPI use without worsening of acid-related diseases, reported lead author Jacob E. Kurlander, MD, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System’s Center for Clinical Management Research.

Dr Jacob Kurlander

“There’s increasing interest in interventions to reduce PPI use,” Kurlander said during his virtual presentation at the annual Digestive Disease Week® (DDW). “Many of the interventions have come in the form of patient and provider education, like the Choosing Wisely campaign put out by the American Board of Internal Medicine. However, in rigorous studies, few interventions have actually proven effective, and many of these studies lack data on clinical outcomes, so it’s difficult to ascertain the real clinical benefits, or even harms.”

In an effort to address this gap, the investigators conducted a retrospective, difference-in-difference study spanning 10 years, from 2009 to 2019. The 1-year intervention, implemented in August 2013, included refill restrictions for PPIs without documented indication for long-term use, voiding of PPI prescriptions not filled within 6 months, a quick-order option for H2-receptor antagonists, reports to identify high-dose PPI prescribing, and patient and clinician education.

The intervention group consisted of 192,607-250,349 veterans in Veteran Integrated Service Network 17, whereas the control group consisted of 3,775,978-4,360,908 veterans in other service networks (ranges in population size are due to variations across 6-month intervals of analysis). For each 6-month interval, patients were included if they had at least two primary care visits within the past 2 years, and excluded if they received primary care at three other sites that joined the intervention site after initial implementation.

The investigators analyzed three main outcomes: Proportion of veterans dispensed a PPI prescription from the VA at any dose; incidence proportion of hospitalization for upper GI diseases, including upper GI bleeding other than from esophageal varices or angiodysplasia, as well as nonbleeding acid peptic disease; and rates of primary care visits, gastroenterology visits, and esophagogastroduodenoscopies (EGDs).

The analysis was divided into a preimplementation period, lasting approximately 5 years, and a postimplementation period with a similar duration. In the postimplementation period, the intervention group had a 5.9% relative reduction in PPI prescriptions, compared with the control group (P < .001). During the same period, the intervention site did not have a significant increase in the rate of patients hospitalized for upper GI diseases, primary care visits, GI clinic visits, or EGDs.

In a subgroup analysis of patients coprescribed PPIs during time at high-risk for upper GI bleeding (that is, when they possessed at least two high-risk medications, such as warfarin), there was a 4.6% relative reduction in time with PPI gastroprotection among the intervention group, compared with the control group (P = .003). In a second sensitivity analysis, hospitalization for upper GI diseases in high-risk patients at least 65 years of age was not significantly different between groups.

“[This] multicomponent PPI deprescribing program led to sustained reductions in PPI use,” Kurlander concluded. “However, this blunt intervention also reduced appropriate use of PPIs for gastroprotection, raising some concerns about clinical quality of care, but this did not appear to cause any measurable clinical harm in terms of hospitalizations for upper GI diseases.”

Debate Around “Unnecessary PPI Use”

According to Philip O. Katz, MD, professor of medicine and director of motility laboratories at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, the study “makes an attempt to do what others have tried in different ways, which is to develop a mechanism to help reduce or discontinue proton pump inhibitors when people believe they’re not indicated.”

Yet this latter element — appropriate indication — drives an ongoing debate.

“This is a very controversial area,” Katz said in an interview. “The concept of using the lowest effective dose of medication needed for a symptom or a disease is not new, but the push to reducing or eliminating ‘unnecessary PPI use’ is one that I believe should be carefully discussed, and that we have a clear understanding of what constitutes unnecessary use. And quite honestly, I’m willing to state that I don’t believe that’s been well defined.”

Katz, who recently coauthored an article about PPIs, suggested that more prospective research is needed to identify which patients need PPIs and which don’t.

“What we really need are more studies that look at who really needs [PPIs] long term,” Katz said, “as opposed to doing it ad hoc.”

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The investigators reported no conflicts of interest. Katz is a consultant for Phathom Pharma.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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