Most people who take PPIs remain on the drugs for years. However, due to increasing evidence suggesting the acid reflux drugs can lead to a world of complications – chronic kidney disease and failure, acute interstitial nephritis, heart attack, and even dementia -the benefits of the drug have been called into question. In the face of growing concern related to the use of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), a new study has found that women may be able to take much smaller doses of popular heartburn drugs without losing out on drug efficacy.
PPIs are easily available over-the-counter drugs. With sales of approximately $14 billion a year, they are the third-most taken type of drug in the U.S. It is suggested that 1 in every 14 Americans uses Nexium, Prilosec, Dexilant, Protonix, Aciphex, or Prevacid on a daily basis.
These medications are indicated for the prevention and treatment of acid-related conditions such as: duodenal stomach ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), NSAID-associated ulcers, and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. They work by reducing the amount of stomach acid produced, thereby reducing the heartburn and pain experienced when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.
In a study involving 50 men and 50 women, researchers found that women were three times more likely to tolerate half a dose of a PPI and continue to show symptom control. Only three of 25 women given lower doses failed to complete a two-month lower dose therapy program. Men given the same lower dosage were three times more likely to fail to complete the two-month lower dose therapy program.
The findings raise questions about the dosage actually necessary for patients who use PPIs long term, as well as questions regarding the safety of smaller dosages compared to H-2 blockers – another popular type of heartburn drug with a different mechanism of action.