In a culture driven by slick marketing campaigns and easy solutions, it’s not hard to understand how drug companies have tapped into this mindset to make huge profits. Heartburn drugs such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid are the most popular over-the-counter drugs also known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). The drugs work by preventing excessive acid from building up in the stomach causing heartburn and acid reflux.
Marketing campaigns tout them as wonder drugs that allow you to eat and drink whatever you want, as much as you want, and whenever you want. However, the truth is not that simple. Here are four things you need to know about these heartburn medications:
1)The FDA has cautioned against the long-term use of PPIs. The FDA noted in 2011, “Be aware that the OTC proton pump inhibitors should only be used as directed for 14 days for the treatment of frequent heartburn. If your heartburn continues, talk to your healthcare professional. No more than three 14-day treatment courses should be used in one year.”
2)The Risks of Long-term use may be serious. Long-term use of such drugs may lead to devastating side effects such as low magnesium levels, bone fractures, problematic interactions with cardiovascular drugs, kidney failure, and the potential for an increased risk for a heart attack. A study published online by the journal Circulation Research concluded that the class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors prematurely age the cells that line the inside of blood vessels, making them less resistant to blockages that can cause heart attacks and strokes. “We now have the smoking gun,” said Dr. John Cooke, chair of the department of cardiovascular sciences at the Houston Methodist Research Institute and senior author of the study. “It raises the question of should these drugs be (sold) over the counter.”
3)Consult with your physician BEFORE starting a PPI treatment regimen. We know that long-term use of PPIs may cause serious health issues but what about dangerous interactions with other drugs? Drugs such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid are sold over-the-counter so it may be tempting to think they are safe but they may adversely interact with other drugs you are taking. Check with your physician first.
4)Not all that glitters is gold. Yes, the purple pills are cute and the television ads are well done and sometimes even amusing but that doesn’t mean the product being pitched is good for you. Remember, these are advertisements designed to sell you something which you may not need. The advertisements purposely do not highlight the risk of kidney damage because the drug manufacturers are putting their own profits ahead of your safety.
If you have used these medications and developed kidney disease contact us for a free case evaluation.