Overuse of heartburn medications may lead to fractures

Every year millions of patients seek help for severe heartburn.  According to Web MD heartburn medications are the third highest-selling class of drugs in the U.S. Each year doctors write more than 100 million prescriptions for the drugs.  The big three are: Prevacid, Prilosec, and Zegerid.  However, a new study shows patients use the drugs longer than is intended which researchers believe can leave a person’s bones more susceptible to fracture.

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Physicians suggest fewer invasive procedures for people with heartburn.
Physicians suggest fewer invasive procedures for people with heartburn.

“There is a possible increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine if you take certain drugs for heartburn, acid reflux, or ulcers,” the FDA warned.

The biggest risk seems to be in those over the age of 50, those who take high doses, and those who take the meds for a long period of time.

“Because these products are used by a great number of people, it’s important for the public to be aware of this possible increased risk and, when prescribing proton pump inhibitors, health care professionals should consider whether a lower dose or shorter duration of therapy would adequately treat the patient’s condition,” the FDA’s warning said.

This precaution came after review of several studies that link the medications to fractures. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will now require a new warning to be added to the package labels of both the prescription and nonprescription versions of the drugs.

Medications can treat acid reflux.
Medications can treat acid reflux.

The FDA offers the following advice to patients:
*If your doctor recommended that you take heartburn medication, don’t stop taking the medication until you discuss it with him or her.

*Over-the-counter heartburn medications should be taken for only 14 days for treatment of frequent heartburn.  No more than three 14-day courses should be taken in a single year.

*Always keep your doctor informed of any complications.

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