Low Levels Of Vitamin B-12 Could Cause Serious Problems

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A potentially serious vitamin deficiency has been linked to acid-blockers that are typically taken for heartburn and acid reflux.

Acid-blockers are among the most prescribed drugs in the country. Almost 160-million prescriptions were written last year and many more were sold over the counter.

The concern does not involve antacids like Tums or Rolaids, but powerful acid blocking drugs, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

“It was a choking sensation in my throat. My throat was really dry. It felt very scratchy. It felt like I was having trouble breathing,” Megan Wheeler said.

Wheeler was put on acid blocking drugs after she began to experience classic stomach acid reflux symptoms.

Acid blockers were recently linked to a vitamin B-12 deficiency by a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“It requires an acidic stomach to properly absorb vitamin B-12. These medications block acid production and that inhibits proper absorption of vitamin B-12,” Dr. Brian Kirsh said.

A sever vitamin B-12 deficiency can be a serious health problem.

“We see people present with peripheral nueropathies. Nerves don’t work very well on a lot of other things. A B-12 deficiency can be life threatening,” Dr. Jamie Koufman said.

In the California, study roughly one in eight patients with a B-12 deficiency had been given a two-year supply, or more, of proton pump inhibitors like Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, and Protonix.

Just less than one in twenty were given an H-2 acid bloker like Tagamet, Pepcide, Axid, and Zantac which are used to treat ulcers.

Researchers said that the findings should not deter doctors from giving patients the medicine that they need, but urged caution.

“If you’ve been on long-term PPIs and I mean two years or more, you probably need to get your B-12 checked,” Dr. Koufman said.

Wheeler has already started to wean off of her acid blockers.

“A lot of the symptoms have subsided so I don’t see myself staying on these very long,” she said.

Dr. Koufman added that self-medicating with over the counter acid blockers should only be done for a short period of time. The blockers ease the symptoms of acid reflux but do not actually stop the damage that acid can do to your throat and esophagus.

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