Every day, millions of Americans suffer from acid reflux and the troublesome symptoms it brings, including frequent heartburn, chest pain, and coughing. Many of them turn to acid-suppressing drugs like Prilosec and Prevacid for relief. But a new safety warning by the FDA is causing doctors to re-evaluate the risks and benefits of these popular treatments.
The FDA warns that long-term use of so-called proton-pump inhibitors that treat acid-reflux symptoms may actually have adverse effects. Patients that take the drugs for more than a year may end up with low magnesium levels, which can put them at risk for seizures, heartbeats, and muscle spasms.
Children that take acid-suppressing drugs to treat acid-reflux symptoms may be especially at risk. Proton-pump inhibitors are a common treatment for childhood gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, despite frequent questions about their effectiveness. The journalPediatrics recently reported that children often experience side effects such as headache, stomach pain, and diarrhea. A study of infants even found that babies treated with proton-pump inhibitors had a higher rate of lung infections.
Americans of all ages should be aware that these medications simply may not work, or they may result in serious side effects. More research on the long-term safety and effectiveness of proton-pump inhibitors needs to be done to determine if the risks outweigh the benefits.