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Dr. Max Gomez: Acid Blockers May Lead To Other Health Problems

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A warning has been issued for millions of people who take powerful acid blockers for acid reflux.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, while they may help your heartburn, they could come with dangerous complications from broken bones to heart problems.

Grace Tejchman has been taking heartburn medication for nine years.

“And if I don’t take it, the acid backs up and I have severe heartburn and the ball in my throat,” she said.

Her relief has come in the form of a group of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors. They’re excellent at controlling the symptoms of heartburn by blocking much of the acid produced in the stomach, Dr. Gomez reported.

Many started out as prescription drugs but are now available over the counter, and doctors are now seeing some long-term effects of the very popular drugs.

“We’ve seen things like osteoporosis, vitamin and mineral malabsorption, such as magnesium and calcium, and interactions with other drugs,” said Western Pennsylvania Hospital surgeon Dr. Blair Jobe.

People who take these medicines twice a day or for more than a year have a higher risk of broken bones, Dr. Gomez reported. Fractures have been seen most frequently at the tip of the thigh bone and the wrist.

While a direct cause and effect hasn’t been proven, the pattern suggests these so-called PPIs can lead to bone loss.

Still, concern about chronic use is growing.

“Once you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, it is a progressive disease. If you’ve been on them for five years and you really don’t have an endpoint, and your lifespan is another 30 years, you have to ask yourself ‘what is the end point,'” Jobe said.

Alternatives to PPIs include drugs known as H2 blockers, which also reduce stomach acid or in extreme cases there is the option of surgery.

“If I can fix a problem and not take the pills, I think I would be better off,” Tejchman said.

PPIs can also lead to magnesium deficiency, which can cause heart rhythm problems — something most people and even some doctors don’t connect to the acid blocking drugs, Dr. Gomez reported.

Acid blockers should be taken for no more than two weeks unless it’s under a doctor’s supervision.

If you have severe reflux, ask your doctor how to modify your diet to reduce symptoms without medication.

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