Studies Show Many People Taking Proton Pump Inhibitors Don’t Need Them

Aciphex, Dexilant, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and Protonix, all part of a class of drugs known a <"">proton pump inhibitors, may be overprescribed, some recent studies indicate. According to a report from Web MD, overuse of proton pump inhibitors, which have been linked to a variety of side effects, including bone fractures, may reduce their risk-benefit profile.

The proton pump inhibitor studies in question were presented at the e American College of Gastroenterology’s annual meeting in Washington D.C. According to the Web MD report:

• In one study, 204 of 358 patients (60%) were prescribed a proton pump inhibitor while in the hospital. The study found 56 patients, or 26%, were receiving the drugs inappropriately. Of these, 14 (9%) had no apparent reason to stay on the therapy after they were discharged.

• In a Canadian study, about 70% of 125 patients were prescribed proton pump inhibitors or H2RA drugs (another class of heart burn medication that includes drugs such as Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac) for ulcer prevention while in the intensive care unit. In nearly all cases (97%), their use was appropriate. But about 40% were sent home from the hospital with an unnecessary prescription for the drugs. Proton pump inhibitors were less likely to be discontinued than H2RA drugs.

• A third study involved nearly 2,000 people, of whom nearly one-third took proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux. Of these, about one-third received prescriptions from gastroenterologists, one-third received prescriptions from their primary care doctors, and the other third purchased over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors without medical supervision. Gastroenterologist were the most likely to prescribe the drugs appropriately. But more than half of those who got their proton pump inhibitor over the counter or from their primary care doctor were taking it inappropriately.

As we’ve reported previously, long-term use of proton pump inhibitors are associated with various side effects, including fractures of the hip, spine and wrist; an increased risk of serious infections such as pneumonia and C. difficile diarrhea; and severe magnesium deficiency, which can cause life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. In fact, the consumer group, Public Citizen, recently petitioned the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to list proton pump inhibitor side effects in a black box warning on the drugs’ labels.

Public Citizen also pointed to studies showing that two-thirds of all people taking proton pump inhibitors do not even have a condition that the drugs are designed to treat, and the drugs are often taken for much longer periods of time than they are approved for. In addition, acid reflux and other conditions can be treated with safer alternatives that are often just as effective, Public citizen said.

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