Harvard Men's Health Watch

Heartburn medication side effects: Should you worry?

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are safe for most people, but also have potential risks you should know about.

Have you heard in the news about infections and other dangerous side effects from heartburn medications? Should you stop taking yours? If you take a drug to ease heartburn, you may have already discussed these concerns with your doctor. There are several kinds of heartburn medications, but the type under fire are the proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). Six of these are available in the United States (see table, right).

Compared with other options, PPIs are the most effective long-term treatment for acidic heartburn, in which acidic stomach contents back up, or "reflux," into the throat. Reducing acid production in the stomach with a PPI could increase the risk of certain infections or block absorption of nutrients. But it's been difficult to prove for certain that long-term use of PPIs causes health problems for most people.

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