Increased warnings about heartburn and reflux medication go unheeded
Source: The New York Times
It's estimated that four in 10 Americans have heartburn, acid reflux, and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a condition that millions of people treat with proton pump inhibitors drugs (PPIs) such as Prilosec or Prevacid. PPIs are also often used with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help prevent or treat ulcers and their side effects.
In recent years the Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about PPIs, the third highest-selling class of drugs in the United States, linking their long-term use and high doses to increased risk of bone fractures, infections, pneumonia, and weight gain, and decreased absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Additionally, studies suggest that the drug may have an addictive quality, and that once patients start on a PPI, acid-making processes within the body increase, making it difficult to ever get off of the drugs.
PPIs don't cure reflux problems, they merely control the symptoms, yet studies suggest that they are often prescribed for no good medical reason, or "just in case." Many doctors believe GERD stems from America's obesity epidemic and that basic diet and lifestyle changes could eliminate heartburn for most patients.
Unfortunately, the use of the PPIs prevents often has the opposite effect; because the drugs mask heartburn and reflux symptoms, many patients continue to eat the unhealthy foods causing the problem in the first place.