January 25th, 2016 | The Blog
Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs are a popular class of drug that is used to treat heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux. They have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since the 1980s and have been widely used since that time. Commonly prescribed PPIs include trade name drugs like Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix and Prevacid.
What Are Proton Pump Inhibitors?
These drugs work to dramatically reduce the production of gastric acid. PPIs have a potent and long-lasting effect on inhibiting acid secretion.
By decreasing the acid in the stomach, gastrointestinal ulcers can heal and indigestion and heartburn symptoms are significantly reduced.
Who Takes PPIs?
About 15 million Americans take proton pump inhibitors. They are sold by prescription, as well as in a lesser strength, which are available for purchase over-the-counter.
PPIs are one of the most widely prescribed medications sold throughout the world, not just the U.S. According to the FDA, proton pump inhibitors should be taken in 14-day cycles and for not more than three times per year. Certainly, there are exceptions to this recommendation according to individual patient symptoms and circumstances. Patients should strictly follow their physician’s prescribing orders for the safest and most effective results.
There are some commonly experienced side effects reported by patients taking PPIs, which include, but are not limited to:
New Safety Concerns
Proton pump inhibitors were considered safe until recent concern spread about the overall effect of taking the drugs on a long-term basis. The relatively new concerns about PPIs include the risk of developing chronic kidney disease, bone fractures, infections and possibly heart disease.
A recent study looked at PPIs and, specifically, the risk for developing chronic kidney disease when taking them. Of the 322 patients included in the study, the estimated absolute 10-year risk for developing chronic kidney disease was 11.8%, when the expected risk was only 8.5%.
Other medical issues contributing to chronic kidney disease were not factored into the study. The length of time a patient took PPIs was also not a contributing factor in the study. The study looked only at whether the patient was actually prescribed proton pump inhibitors or not.
Other Treatment Options
Medication does not always have to be the first line of treatment, according to recent findings. Patients should try other treatment options to deal with heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux before resorting to taking proton pump inhibitors. A few suggestions include, but are not limited to:
The Final Answer
There are more side effects to proton pump inhibitors than were first indicated when they hit the global market in the 1980s. The information collected during the study suggests that patients should only take PPI medication when they truly need it, not as a routine, long-term maintenance drug therapy.