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Stomach Acid Drugs Come with Dangers, Studies Show
Date:5/10/2010

Potential side effects of popular proton pump inhibitors should not be ignored

MONDAY, May 10 (HealthDay News) -- Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec and Nexium are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, but several new studies warn that the popular stomach acid reducers are showing the potential for serious side effects.

Five studies and an editorial in the May issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine explore the side effects associated with proton pump inhibitors, including bone fractures among older women and Clostridium difficile infections that can cause life-threatening diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset in older people.

Overall, proton pump inhibitors are safe, experts stressed. Even so, evidence suggests the drugs are being prescribed unnecessarily and that potential side effects are not being taken seriously enough.

"Generally speaking, proton pump inhibitors are safe medications. Proton pump inhibitors are commonly used and generally very well-tolerated," said Dr. Amy Linsky, lead author of one of the studies and a general internal medicine fellow at Boston Medical Center. "But in the last few years, there is more information coming out about some adverse effects associated with them. Prescribers and patients should be aware of what some of those risks are, and each patient needs to assess what their risk vs. benefits could be."

Proton pump inhibitors are sold under the brand names Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium, among others. About 113 million prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors are filled each year, accounting for nearly $14 billion in sales, according to an accompanying editorial.

The medications, which decrease production of stomach acid, are used to treat inflammation of the esophagus, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and ulcers, among other conditions. Yet evidence suggests that between 53 percent and 69 percent of prescrip
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