Death By Modern Medicine: Acid Blockers

The problem is common.  Stomach acid rises up into the esophagus to cause a burning sensation that worsens when you lay down to go to sleep.  The initial heartburn problem is complicated now by sleep interruption or deprivation.   The desperate sufferer visits the doctor who mindlessly prescribes a powerful acid blocker called a proton pump inhibitor (Prilosec) that completely shuts down acid secretion.  Problem solved.  But now you are hooked on lifetime acid blockers that are designed to cause temporary rebound heartburn the moment one attempts to wean away from this drug.

Time progresses. You have no idea of the long and short-term side effects posed by acid blockers.

The most recent study reveals while you obtain relief from heartburn you are increasing your risk of death.  The most recent published report cites this heartburn medication increases risk for Campylobacter, the most common reason for food poisoning from undercooked poultry.  The acid blocker also triples the risk for E. coli.  [Daily Mail Jan 5, 2017] These are deadly forms of bacteria particularly in older adults.

The nursing home “death” bacterium Clostridium difficile infection rate rises with the use of proton pump inhibitors. [Expert Opinion Drug Safety Dec 2016]

Nutrient deficiencies

Nutrient deficiency induced by a shortage of acid to absorb nutrients from the diet or supplements is commonplace with the use of proton pump inhibitors.  For example:

Proton pump inhibitors increase the risk for vitamin B12 deficiency more than acid inhibitors (histamine blockers).

Another potentially deadly consequence of antacid use is magnesium deficiency.  Researchers mistakenly concluded that antacids did not pose such a risk as determined by blood testing.  But only 2% of magnesium is in the blood circulation the rest in bone, muscle, etc.  [British Journal Pharmacology April 2016]

Magnesium depletion induced by acid blockers can have mortal cardiovascular consequences. [American Journal Cardiovascular Drugs June 2016]  One study showed a 317% increased risk for heart attacks and strokes with use of these heartburn drugs. [Neurogastroenterology Motility Aug 30, 2016]

The Food & Drug Administration has had to issue precautions concerning continued use of acid blockers. [Current Opinion Gastroenterology March 2016]

Magnesium is not the only mineral that is depleted by acid blockers.  Calcium absorption is diminished to the point where long-term users of antacids face weakening of bone strength and increased risk for falls. [Osteoporosis International April 2016]

Zinc, a mineral that is in great shortage in the American population, is depleted by antacids. [Gastroenterology Research Dec 2011]

Many older adults who already experience iron deficiency anemia due to chronic inflammation or low-graded infection exacerbate their condition by taking antacids. [Gastroenterology Nov 24, 2016]

More or less cancer?

The use of histamine blockers is not only intended to allay burning symptoms but also erosion and cancer of the esophagus.  But proton pump inhibitors increase the risk for gastric cancer. [Expert Opinion Drug Safety 2016]  This represents disease substitution, not disease prevention.

Interference with drugs

With a lack of stomach acid the absorption of many drugs is also compromised.

The combined use of metformin, the most commonly prescribe anti-diabetic drug, and acid blockers, further increases the risk for B12 deficiency. [Clinical Diabetes April 2015]

Many people take supplemental thyroid hormone and its absorption is compromised by use of antacids. [European Review Medicine Pharmacological Sciences 2014]

More mortal consequences

Proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec are associated with an increased risk for kidney disease and death. [BMC Nephrology Aug 3, 2016]

Antacids can increase the effectiveness of medicines like the blood thinner warfarin, which can result in adverse events. [Family Physician Essentials Oct 2013]

The chronic use of proton pump inhibitors have an increased risk for mental decline (dementia) as they age. [JAMA Neurology April 2016]

So to summarize, acid inhibitors and blockers are a mainstay in the treatment of heartburn but with continue reliance can increase the risk for deadly side effects that are largely unknown to patients.

A natural alternative

Mastic gum may be an effective alternative to acid blockers. [Journal Ethnopharmacology Feb 3, 2010]