Medications for GERD, including Prilosec (omeprazole), Dexilant, and Nexium are available through your doctor or over the counter at your local pharmacy. These medications, commonly known as the “purple pill”, are used to decrease painful heartburn symptoms that affects up to 30% of the U.S. population. Available since the 1980’s, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are widely prescribed. They were thought to be the ‘silver bullet’ for treating the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) because they stop the production of stomach acid. No acid, no reflux. Problem solved.
Fast forward 40 years. We are now learning that stopping the production of stomach acid with long-term PPI usage may come with significant risks for patients. Several FDA warnings have been issued and hundreds of studies published showing an association between long term PPI usage with hip, wrist or spine fractures; bacterial infections; chronic kidney disease; heart disease; dementia; community-acquired pneumonia; stomach cancer; chronic liver disease; and even premature death. In fact, if you look at the dosing instructions for the most common PPI medications, you will see that the instructions are clear. Only use these medications 3x a year for no more than 14 days. That’s it. Have you been taking your PPI medications for longer than recommended by the FDA?