Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are a category of medications used to treat the symptoms of acid reflux disease (also known as GERD). Two of the most popular drugs available over-the-counter to treat reflux – Prilosec OTC and Nexium – are PPIs. PPIs are also very commonly prescribed to reflux patients in higher doses, and often with the physician’s intention of the patient taking them indefinitely.

For many patients, taking a PPI controls at least some of their symptoms and improves quality of life. But research is continuously demonstrating that the long-term use of PPIs may result in some serious consequences.

Increased risk of chronic kidney disease

Scientists have recently published new findings that the use of PPIs increases the risk of chronic kidney disease. Throughout the study, researchers tracked patient data for 2 populations, comparing rates of incidence of chronic kidney disease and use of PPIs. This finding could attribute to the alarming increase in chronic kidney disease.

Other consequences: elevated risk of heart attack

In June, I shared information from a recent study that revealed that the use of PPIs increases the risk of heart attacks. In this study, researchers acquired health documents for nearly 3 million individuals to analyze trends in PPI usage and cardiovascular health. Among their findings, scientists noted that the increased risk was not associated with any previous history of cardiovascular disease or complications.

Higher risk of bone fractures

Researchers analyzed health records of a number of patients who suffered broken bones and who were also taking PPIs. Scientists discovered that after 7 years of taking PPIs, an individual’s risk of a fracture due to osteoporosis (bone loss) dramatically increases. It is thought that the bone loss is due to deficiencies and malabsorption of B12 vitamin and calcium caused by PPIs. In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognized the increased risk of hip, wrist, and spinal fractures and enacted a change in the safety labeling of PPI products.

Consider antireflux surgery as a long-term solution

We encourage you to analyze the risks involved in using PPIs to manage your symptoms, and to recognize that the only way to permanently and safely relieve GERD symptoms is through surgical intervention. Antireflux surgery is a long-term solution to acid reflux, and helps prevent Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. Contact Institute of Esophageal and Reflux Surgery to learn more about whether antireflux surgery is right for you.