Do you really need the heartburn medication that you’re taking? There’s a 50/50 chance you don’t. While nearly one in four Canadians take a class of acid-suppressing drugs called proton pump inhibitors, about half don’t actually need to take them long-term.
So what’s the big deal? Well, apart from the cost, any time you take a drug you don’t truly need, the risks, no matter how small, obviously outweigh a non-existent benefit. And not only can taking so-called proton pump inhibitors for an extended period lower levels of important nutrients, such as B12, in your blood, they may also increase your risk of certain health conditions.
For example, some observational studies (which are considered lower-quality evidence than randomized controlled trials) have linked these drugs with increased rates of fractures, and infections such as pneumonia, and c difficile, a diarrheal disease that, when severe, can become life-threatening.
To find out more about when protracted use of PPIs is considered appropriate, and how to tell if it’s time to rethink their place in your drug regimen, read this piece I wrote for Good Times: ‘Do You Really Need to Take Heartburn Meds?’
Thank-you to the interviewees, who generously shared their time and expertise:
- Dr. David Armstrong, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
- Barb Farrell, a clinical pharmacist with the Geriatric Day Hospital, Bruyére Continuing Care, a scientist with the Bruyére Research Institute and CT Lamon Primary Health Care Research Centre, and an assistant professor with the department of family medicine at the University of Ottawa.
- Camille Gagnon, a pharmacist and assistant director of the Canadian Deprescribing Network.
- Andrea Hardy, a Calgary registered dietitian with Ignite Nutrition Inc.
- Kent MacLeod, a pharmacist and owner of the Nutrichem Pharmacy and Clinic in Ottawa.
If you’re interested in reading more about PPIs, check out this summary from the University of British Columbia’s Therapeutics Initiative. ‘Long-Term Proton Pump Inhibitor Use: Less Can Be More When Treating Heartburn.’