Harvard Health Letter

Should you keep taking that heartburn medication?

It may be time to re-evaluate if it's been a while since you started using proton-pump inhibitors.

heartburn-medicine-medication-proton-pump-inhibitor-acid-reflux
Long-term use of some heartburn medications appears to be associated with an increated risk of dementia, heart attack, and chronic kidney disease.
Image: Thinkstock

You may think you're reaching for heartburn relief when you take a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI), a type of medication that helps block the production of stomach acid. PPIs are effective, and some—such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec)—are readily available over the counter. Others, such as pantoprazole (Protonix), are frequently prescribed for long-term use. But PPIs may have risks when taken over a long period.

"Some people take PPIs for chronic conditions and derive benefits from them that outweigh risks. Far more people with symptoms of heartburn are started on PPIs, do not derive benefits from them, and continue to use them because no one makes an effort to take them off the drugs. But if PPIs don't do any good up front, they won't do any good in the long term, and they may even cause harm," says Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

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