Before we explain why you should stop taking PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), first, let’s briefly review how the digestive system works. After you swallow food, it travels down your esophagus and passes through a valve called the upper esophageal sphincter (UES). This UES valve opens so food can then enter your stomach. Once it’s there, gastric acid helps break that food down. Whenever that UES doesn’t completely close, stomach acid can enter and then irritate your esophagus. This condition is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), otherwise known as acid reflux.
When You Should Stop Taking PPIs for Acid Reflux
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are often used to treat GERD and other ailments caused by excessive gastric acid production. In fact, doctors write millions of PPI prescriptions for 8.2% of the total U.S. population every month. PPIs, which are also available in over-the-counter formulations, substantially reduce stomach acid. However, the Food and Drug Administration only recommends taking PPIs daily for 4-8 weeks at a time. (This is the preferred PPI treatment timeline listed on FDA-approved labels for Prilosec and Nexium.) However, you may find a one-month course of treatment equally effective in reducing painful acid reflux symptoms. Stopping PPIs once your symptoms subside is the best way to avoid unnecessary complications that can arise with long-term use. The FDA emphasizes that based on your condition, choose the lowest dose and shortest course of PPI therapy that’s available. Then, stop taking PPIs as soon as your symptoms improve.
Why You Should Stop Taking PPIs On a Regular Basis
The FDA emphasizes stopping PPI use after eight weeks due to the potentially severe side effects associated with long-term use. Some potentially dangerous PPI side effects include:
- Increased chronic kidney disease progression
- increased risk for potentially fatal Clostridium Difficile bacterial infection (often referred to as C-diff)
- Higher risk of bone fractures
Additionally, a 2013 study found PPIs can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies over prolonged, regular use. Deficiencies associated with long-term PPI use include:
- Vitamin B12 (this vitamin helps produce red blood cells, regenerates bone marrow, and aids the nervous system)
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Calcium, iron and magnesium metabolism (which helps your body make energy, as well as regulating muscle, nerve, and blood pressure functions)
Why Patients Over 75 Should Stop Taking PPIs
If that’s not enough, a German study completed in early 2016 examined more than 73,000 patients aged 75 and older. Researchers found regular PPI users had a 44% higher risk of dementia than heartburn sufferers not using PPIs. However, choosing a different type of heartburn medication called H2 blockers (Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac) also raises older patients’ dementia risks. Older GERD patients may benefit from ant-reflux surgery, alternating heartburn medications or increased water intake to dilute gastric acid.
Stopping PPIs May Cause Temporary “Acid Rebound” Symptoms
Discontinuing PPIs after regular use can be very difficult. For many patients, stopping PPIs dramatically increases stomach acid production, causing severe pain. However, doctors can help you stop taking PPIs by switching to regular antacids or H2 blockers. Additionally, ask your doctor about reevaluating your PPI use to ensure you’re getting the best possible treatment for your condition. If you suffer from omeprazole withdrawal (pain, acid regurgitation, dyspepsia) when trying to wean off PPIs, your doctor can help.
My own doctor helped me wean off PPIs with a twice-daily Pepcid AC regimen. Now, I take two 20mg famotidine pills in the morning before breakfast, then two more before dinner. You can purchase the name brand (Pepcid) or generic (famotidine), they’re the same active ingredient.
What You Can Do
If you or a loved one took PPIs regularly and developed serious health complications, you may be eligible for compensation. Since drug manufacturers failed to warn consumers about the dangers of long-term use, PPI lawsuits are now underway. Severe PPI side effects include kidney damage, bone fractures, renal failure, dementia, chronic vitamin deficiencies, C-diff, pneumonia and heart attacks. Fill out your free PPI claim review form today and a lawyer will contact you shortly to discuss your case.
Related: Alternatives to Nexium and Prilosec for Acid Reflux
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.