Infant spit-up medications increase bone fracture risk later in childhood


Some doctors are prescribing medications for babies that are not FDA approved for children less than one year old

October 18, 2017

Around 65% of all babies have mild infant gastroesophageal reflux, which parents refer to as spitting up. This is why parents of newborns always seem to have a towel around.

Until recent years, parents would go through the feeding ritual every two hours of making and heating a bottle, feeding the baby, burping the baby, and then putting the little one back to sleep.

Now, many pediatricians are prescribing stomach-acid suppressors medications, such as proton pump inhibitors and histamine 2 receptor agonists (H2 blockers), to prevent healthy babies from spitting up at all. Prescription data tell the story. From 1999 to 2003, proton pump inhibitor prescriptions for infants less than one-year-old increased by four times, while from 1999 to 2004, there is an additional 7.5-times increase in prescriptions.

Medical research suggests that prescription of these medications has not been shown to reduce the symptoms. In fact, recent data suggest that the medications actually calls future problems in children. This is concerning, considering that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any proton pump inhibitor medication for use in children less than one year old.

Potential long-term effects of giving infant stomach-acid suppressor medications

Medical researchers studied nearly 875,000 children diagnosed with gastric reflux between 2001 and 2013. They presented an abstract of their findings at the May 2017 meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

The study found that children who received proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medications during the first six months of their lives had a 22% increased likelihood of bone fractures during their childhood. The median age for the fractures was about six years after the PPI medications were used. When patients were given both PPI and H2 blockers, the risk of future childhood bone fractures increased to 31%. The data also show that the longer a baby was prescribed PPIs, the higher the risk of having a bone broken in the future.

One of the told the Pediatric Academic Societies that acid-reducing medications “are not safe for children, especially very young children” and “should only be prescribed to treat confirmed serious cases of more severe, symptomatic, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and for the shortest length of time needed.”

Other research has shown that prescribing proton pump inhibitor medications to elderly patients increases their risk of hip, wrist, and spine fractures. In fact, the risk was so significant that the FDA issued a warning on March 23, 2011.

What you can do

As a medical malpractice lawyer, I found that many physicians prescribe medications without devoting much conscious individualized thought about the specific patient, or discussing the risks and benefits of the medication.

When it comes to your child, or yourself, for that matter, I encourage you to have a conversation with the doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant who proposes a prescription for new medication. Ask about the risks and benefits of taking the medication, in comparison to the risks and benefits of not taking the medication. This is a useful conversation that will reveal to you the prescribing healthcare provider’s reasoning for recommending a drug, and will politely force some collaborative thinking as to whether the drug is the best choice in your case.

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of a medication error or other medical malpractice on the part of a doctor, surgeon, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or hospital, call the attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, for a free consultation about your potential case. Our phone number is 281-580-8800.


Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. A former hospital administrator, he devotes his practice to filing medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of patients and their families. He is a recognized lawyer and, in 2017 alone, was recognized by H Texas magazine and Houstonia magazine as one of Houston’s top lawyers, and by Martindale Hubbell with its prestigious AV rating.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.


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