FDA sounds alarm on dangers of antacid drugs

alarm

In a shockingly rare example of the FDA actually doing its job, a report was issued on Tuesday cautioning against the prolonged use of a class of acid stopping drugs called proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Who knows, maybe someone at the FDA read my series on heartburn and GERD, especially this article and this one detailing the dangers of acid stopping drugs?

This is a really big deal. PPIs are one of the most popular classes of drugs prescribed. Doctors wrote 114 million prescriptions for them last year. Americans spend $5.1 billion on Nexium, the most popular PPI, alone.

The FDA report cautions against high doses or prolonged use of PPIs, because they’ve been shown to increase the risk of infection, bone fractures and dementia.

But the danger doesn’t stop there. As I pointed out in my series, all acid stopping drugs (not just PPIs) inhibit nutrient absorption, promote bacterial overgrowth, reduce resistance to infection and increase the risk of cancer and other serious diseases.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad the FDA finally issued this warning. But I can’t help wondering how someone who has been taking a PPI for 20 years is going to feel about it. If I were one of those people, I’d be incredibly angry. Especially because researchers who studied these drugs before they were approved by the FDA years ago sounded a similar warning.

In fact, when the drugs were first approved, it was recommended that they be taken for no longer than six weeks because of these same concerns the FDA is only now warning us about! Looks like someone dropped the ball on that one, because it’s not at all uncommon to encounter people who’ve been on a PPI for two decades. After writing the GERD series, I heard from several people in that group.

So please forward this article to anyone you know who has been taking one of these dangerous drugs for any longer than six weeks. And believe me, you know one of these people. We all do. You may even be one of them.

If you or a loved one wants to get off these drugs and treat GERD naturally, the the series on my blog clearly explains how to do that.

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  1. MollyMurr says

    I was on Nexium for nearly 10 years because I would wake up at night breathing in acid.  I finally self-diagnosed myself with sleep apnea.   My doctor still encouraged me to take Nexium for my occasional heartburn.
    Then I got test results back from my yearly physical that showed I was anemic.  This was odd.  My doctor gave me iron supplements to take.  I started investigating side effects of Nexium and found one site that claimed it caused anemia because the stomach needs acid to get at the iron in foods and supplements.  After taking iron for a few months (still on Nexium) and not having my blood test numbers change, I decided to stop Nexium.  I’ve been using Zantac for the past month.  I have had more heartburn, but it hasn’t been bad, and I know that it could be “reactive” from stopping the Nexium.

    More importantly, my energy levels have been higher, and I just went for another blood test today that I’m sure will show normal to high iron levels.  I feel like I actually may have too much iron now, based on some other symptoms, but the test will tell.  I really *should* have too much iron in my system, when I’m taking an iron pill every day.
    My mother in law used Nexium for a month and became anemic.  She went off Nexium and the anemia went away.  Why don’t our doctors know this?
    My goal is to be off Zantac as well.  Thank you for the excellent articles.

  2. Konnie says

    I’ve been taking Protonix for 2 years for a hiatal hernia.   It has worked wonderfully to eliminate most GERD symptoms.  However,  in the two years I was hospitalized for 5 days for a bacterial infection in my colon and last week had to have my appendix out.  Last year I suffered a vertebrae compression fracture just from on strong cough!   I am a 50 year old female, in otherwise good health.

    Hearing this news is rather eye opening as I have been given no warnings from either my internist or my gastroenterologist about issues related to long term use of Protonix.  Guess I’ll make a Dr. appt. tomorrow.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I hope you have an open-minded doctor. Many are unaware of the risks, even though the scientific literature is very clear on the increased risk of infection that comes with PPIs. Maybe you could print out some of the studies I linked to from my articles on the risks of acid-stopping drugs, particularly the ones related to infections. You might want to read the GERD series and try some of the suggestions. Check out the comments on each article. You’ll see many reports of dramatic improvements from people who have tried the low-carb approach with HCL. Good luck.

  3. Arthur Remes says

    Hi
     
    Thanks for your wonderful website.
    I have two questions which I would be grateful to have you answer.
    The first: My chiropractor says it is a bad idea to take fish oil with food because it decreases the absorption of other nutrients. He says it should be taken between meals. iS that correct, in your opinion? I’ve never seen this discussed.
    The second question I have is where on the FDA website it says that Prilosec, etc. increase the possibility of dementia. It seems to mention dementia being cited as a possible risk factor for fracture, but not as a result of taking the drug.  I may have misread it.
    I hope you have the time to answer.
    Thanks
    Arthur

    • Chris Kresser says

      1. Read my recent article called The Definitive Fish Oil Buyer’s Guide. I explain that the absorption of fish oil is significantly better (3x or more) when taken with a high fat meal.

      2. PPIs may directly contribute to increases in fractures because they inhibit calcium absorption.

  4. says

    I was prescribed Nexium and Pantoloc after being diagnosed with what they considered to be GERD, even though my symptoms did not really match.  I tried them both, maybe a total of a few months, but thankfully I stopped because neither really did anything.  It’s a shame that these pills are prescribed as if they actually solve the problem when all they do at best is temporarily mask the symptoms.  The more I learn about the “health” system the more I feel that we are alone to figure things out for ourselves.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Yes, we should always be our own advocates. On the other hand, there are practitioners working outside of the conventional medical system that have a more sophisticated understanding of functional medicine and promoting health than many doctors. You could try consulting one of them.

  5. says

    congratulations for your web site.
    i have worked as a scientist for more than 40 years…and seen first hand the damage that long term use of nexium drugs and alike can do to humans.
    after 6 weeks of usage,……switching to a good complex of “”good probiotics”" will cure you.
    god bles
    dr david
    ps. soon…we will have a web site to help anyone with their case of acidity…etc with no cost.

    • lily says

      I would really appreciate any help I can get to get off nexium but can’t do it cold turkey. When you say ‘good probiotics’ what does that mean. How can I start to get off nexium and what shall I expect. I have tried but always go back to it however I think it is nexium that is making me sick at the moment. My doctor did mention that nexium can mirror the symptoms that it is supposed to cure. Help! Thanks Lily

  6. Robert Crone says

    Please help….

    I’ve been on PPI’s for approx. 20 years from the age of about 18. Initially for heartburn and indigestion, but latterly more and more symptoms have been added to the list. I’ve got raised ALT & AST liver enzimes, raised anti-nuclear antibodies, multiple food intolerences (YORK TEST), hypothyroidism, skin rashes, itching, headaches, stomach pain, fatigue, poor memory and concentration, very poor circulation, and the list goes on.

    I’ve had 3 endoscopies, pressure tests, liver scans, and much more. Everytime I’ve been to my GP he asked me to increase the dosage of PPI, at one point I was on 60mg of omeprazole.

    Recently I got myself tested for food intolerance as I was desperate to get to the bottom of this. I was intolerant to milk, eggs, chicken, wheat, gluten, and lots more. Since I stopped these foods the heartburn has stopped for the first time in 20 years, I’ve added HCL with pepsin and good bacteria to my diet also.

    I’m so angry that this has dragged on for 20 years.. I’m feeling a little better now, but need my Doctor to get me referred to get to the root of the cause.

    I’m hopeful i can get these issues resolved but I’m struggling with my Doctor. Can you advise a way forward for me.

    Thankyou

  7. says

    Two of my patients, who are pharmacists, have told me that it is widely known that people are only supposed to be taking GERD/reflux meds for 6 weeks. They see the same people come back with the script over and over again, even though they know that that was not the intended protocol for these drugs. But as pharmacists, they can only educate the patients about the risks, since only a “Doctor” can alter their drug regimen. Bot made a big deal about the risk of osteopenia and fracture and stated that there is a LOT of evidence out there, with many lawsuits in the works and yet to come. The FDA is a day late (but NEVER a dollar short) once again.

  8. Ismail Al Oraini says

    Thank you for your life saving article. I have started taking anti acid drugs in 11/2000. By mid 2005 I started feeling fatigue and disoriented. I visited doctors and run all kind of tests including MRI to the brain. No up normality was found and was diagnosed with depression and ended up with anti depression drugs that I took for couple of weeks only (I was not really convinced). In 10/2010 the same symptoms have become more intense plus occasional headaches and nick pain. The MRI revealed sever damage in my nick disks, the causes for fatigue and the disorientation remains undetermined until I read your article where you have mentioned that anti-acid drugs may increase the risk of dementia.

    My question now is that the health damage that was caused by prolong use of anti-acid drugs, the dementia in particular, is it reversible? Would it go away or improve when I stop taking anti-acid drugs?

    Thank you and hope to hear your input soon.

    • Chris Kresser says

      If the problems were caused by B12 deficiency, there’s no way to tell if they are reversible until you build up your B12 reserves again. Unfortunately, some B12 deficiency-caused neurological damage is irreversible.

  9. Aloysius Alexis says

    Hi Chris, thanks a lot for your articles regarding GERD, I am 19 years old and I have been on omeprazole/rabeprazole for about 8 months. At one point of time, i recalled a doctor telling me to take 40mg omeprazole twice daily, which i did. Anyway, my stomach issues wasn’t solved. Instead, it just got worse and worse until I chanced upon your website and realized that my problem could be caused by low stomach acid instead.

    I have followed your methods: betaine hcl, gentian root, enzymes, probiotics. And I’m feeling much better, my stomach issues: bloating, nausea, reflux. have been dramatically reduced. I feel that i’m almost back to normal.

    My question now is I would like to ask if there is a chance that my long term medication of ppi for 8 months would have caused damage to my body that is irreversible?

    Once again, thank you and I wish to hear your reply.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I doubt it’s irreversible, especially at your age. Give it some time to get fully back to normal.

  10. Julie Ann Bledsoe says

    This makes me furious. It helps a lot of things make sense though. I am a little late reading this but found your article after a google search stemming from curiosity after reading a post about the Amgen settlement today. I never had any issues until I got pneumonia at age 19 and wound up with adult onset asthma. From that point I was on a carousel of doctors and ever increasing drugs that lasted 10 years, took me from 118 lbs to 250 lbs and left my immune system shot. I always assumed my weak bones were from massive doses of corticosteroids but now I wonder. I had a bad atv accident and compound fractured my right arm in 2005. My bones were so weak they had to operate on my arm 3 times and it has 2 plates, 16 screws, a bone graft and is wired together with steel sutures. I do have a high hernia but since I changed to homeopathic medicine in 2009 I have no issues with GERD or asthma. I believe the asthma meds caused the gerd. I’ve gone into liver failure and have constant issues with infections. I’m allergic to almost every antibiotic and I take supplements everyday to help with nutrient absorption.

  11. says

    A friend directed me to this website as he was aware of my efforts to help patients who present GERD, all of whom have been taking PPI drugs for many years, which I read from some posts here, even go beyond 20 years.

    I am a Homeopath (not professional as I treat all patients free of charge). I live in Sri Lanka and am 84 years of age and drive daily to work. I have proved that Arnica 30 in the Wet dose which I have used since 1996 nightly has been responsible to maintain my life at the level that I enjoy today with BP <120/80 , Pulse 70 and normal Cholesterol and Triglycerides and No Diabetes or other ailments that are considered as normal at my advanced age.

    Getting back to GERD, the remedy I have prescribed to thousands of patients is Nat Phos 6x. The full title is Natrium Phosphoricum which is Sodium Phosphate, potentised to 6x or 10 to the power 6 (6X6X6X6X6X6) which is the equivalent of 1/1 Millionth of the salt. Nat Phos is one of a group of 12 Biochemic Cell Salts discovered about 150 years ago by Dr Schuessler and is available at any Health Food outlet in tablet form.

    Almost all patients who have used Nat Phos, many of whom were wedded to the PPI drugs for years have confirmed that they discovered almost instant relief and that within the hour their GERD was history.

    You can read more about my therapy if you do a Search for GERD on my website:

    http://www.joedelivera.com

    I would also recommend that you spend a few minutes reading the account of Ed Kazmi who suffered from GERD for 26 years and in CURED.

    Link below:

    http://www.joedelivera.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?s=kazmi&comment_status=all&pagegen_timestamp=2013-03-29+04%3A36%3A27&_total=4981&_per_page=20&_page=1&_ajax_fetch_list_nonce=183a84e8ef&action=-1&comment_type&paged=1&action2=-1

  12. Maryna says

    I have been taking Nexiam 20mg for the past approximately 10 years for gastro reflux. Today I read an article regarding some side effects…..which gave me a shock, as I have all of the symptoms mentioned. I definitely need to stop taking Nexiam, but what else can I take for the gastro reflux and heartburn?

  13. Ann says

    When I accidentally learned of the problems with extended use of medium I was very concerned . First I took Prilosec due to avid reflux which would cause me to lose my voice. I wax a teacher so that was a real problem . Then my doctor prescribed nexium to repair the damage. I’ve been taking these drugs for 20 years . I 61 and feer the dementia factor . Any suggestions ? , I’ve stopped taking the nexium

  14. Charles Ronkon says

    I’m a 19 year old diabetic who has been on prevacid for two years then nexium for 7 from when I was 10… it started out with some stomach pain and a clean endoscopy. Now I have eosinophilic esophagitis, gastritis, acid reflux, broke my arm once and ankles 5 times, not to mention the sever stomach pain and daily liquid bowls. Along with sever adhd, and trouble with memory and clear though. It makes me very nervous being so young. I’ve been to what was supposed to be some of the best doctors to only be given the same PPI.. IT WAS recently I discovered what the real problem could be. Not to mention even after being of nexium for months I still have a lot of issues with low magnesium levels and it burns so bad threw iv treatment. I’ve suffered or years in and out of hospitals. And missed all of high school due to it.. what are some things I can read from you to maybe help my problems. I’m currently working with a lawyer as well for the wonderful affects of nexium not to mention my Dr prescribing it was getting money for prescribing nexium. It’s sad what they can do to us all with out even knowing the truth. Any reply would be greatly appreciated.

  15. Sunny Dayse says

    I have been on Nexium for several years. In that time frame, I’ve developed so many problems from chest pain to gastrointestinal issues (colitis), to skin, hearing and vision problems. I also have an increase in my arthritis pain. My doctor would treat the symptoms in some cases, tell me to live with the others. Not once did he mention discontinuing the Nexium even though that is the only medication I take. After reading a list of the side affects and long term use dangers, I’m furious! I am destroying my body for the sake of heartburn. How stupid is that? I will never take another “little purple pill” again. Oh and did I mention the outrageous price of this stuff?

    • lily says

      How did you manage to get off Nexium? I am struggling with awful feelings with and without it. I get pressure in my chest, a weird quivering feeling and general malaise. I am trying to do it slowly as I can’t just quit that hasn’t worked at all for me. I would love to hear how anyone gets off it and what their symptoms are besides the burning feeling.
      Thanks lily

  16. Erica says

    My husband has been on PPI for over 12 months Since he started taking it he complained of headaches but wasreally concerned he had a brain tumour as he was getting forgetful and unable to remember words. He said he could no longer do x word puzzles which he was excellent at. He has been back to the DR a few times complaining he thought he was getting dementia. Not once has the Dr tested him for B12 levels. Had his second follow up endoscopy last november there was still eveidence of GERD medication doubled and over xmas I was really concerned that he was losing it. He was asking me really bizare things and his language was all mixed up. Then something woderful happened He ran out and didn’t get his script filled. I had done some research and suggested he wait till we saw the Dr. He didn’t get back there and just refilled his script In the time he had stopped the medication he appeared to speak more fluently and understand things more easlily but when he restarted his script he was was again having difficulty with his speech and remembering things. He has stopped now and I have done a lot more research and am very concerned that permenant damage has not been done. The drug companies are certainly not going to do any research the are making so much out of these drugs. Who wants a perfect oesophagus at the compromise of a wrecked body I will be bringing as much evidence to the DR as I can and will be spreading the word. (I’m a nurse)

  17. lily says

    Wow I just stumbled across this website and I have been reading all the stories of people being on a PPI for a long time. I am one of those people. 10 years and different PPI’s nexium being the last one. I have done well on it for a long time but just have started again with the burning stomach and nausea. My GP actually mentioned that Nexium could contribute to the problem and he promptly put me on famotidine. I took it for 3 days and was so sick I almost went to the emergency room. Right away I went back to my security blanket Nexium. Maybe it would be a good idea to only take Nexium every other day and try to wean myself off it but I am afraid after being on the medicine for so long that I might get really sick again. The gastro doc I went to years ago did the endoscopy and just said ‘keep on taking the medicine’. He was no use at all and so my GP continues to give me the prescription. Any advice would be appreciated as I am unsure what to do. Where can I find more information about nexium?

  18. says

    In 2005 I discovered that Nat Phos 6x, the Biochemic Cell Salt will neutralise GERD and will replace all PPI drugs far more effectively. What is more, it does so in a few hours after taking a few tablets.

    I have shared this information with reference to many cases of GERD which were stabilized with the majority CURED on my Website:

    http://www.joedelivera.com/?s=gerd

    If you wish to discuss your problem with me you may do so, free of charge, on:

    http://www.joedelivera.com

  19. Robelle says

    I have been told that low acid and high acid produce the same symptoms. By taking antacids we are lowering our acid levels even more, opening up the door for H.Pylori bacteria ulcers. It was suggested to me to do a simple at home test to see if I had high or low acid reflux. When you are having symptoms of reflux, drink an 8 oz glass of water with 1 Tbl spoon of cider vinegar. If your symptoms are alleviated you have low acid and need to look into HCL tabs to increase the acid in your stomach for adequate digestion. If your symptoms worsen you would benefit from an antacid medication. I try to drink 1-2 glasses of cider vinegar daily and it has helped my reflux greatly.

    • lily says

      When you did the acid test with the vinegar were you still taking a PPI or were you off it. You didn’t mention that the vinegar must be raw acid cider vinegar with ‘the mother’ in it. ‘The Mother’ is the sediment in the raw vinegar. What measurements did you use?
      lily

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