FDA Warning of Fracture Risks Linked to Acid Reflux Medications

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that long-term use of popular antacids in the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) category may increase the risk of bone fractures. Patients in the Albany, Georgia, area and elsewhere are being told that use of the drugs in this category, especially when taken for more than a year and at high doses, can lead to increased incidence of fractures of the hip, spine, wrist and other bones.

In addition to the increased risk of bone fractures, the medications may also increase the risk of infections caused by the C. difficile bacteria, causing severe diarrhea. Heartburn medication in this category includes some of the most popular prescription antacids used for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Zegerid, Protonix, Dexilant and Aciphex are all PPI medications.

Researchers have found a connection between these antacids and bone fractures in middle-aged adults, although the risk appears to be greater in patients over 50 years old. With over 100 million prescriptions written in the United States annually, this is the third most commonly sold form of prescription medication. Over-the-counter versions of three of these medications are also available: Prevacid, Prilosec and Zegerid. The FDA, as a result of the research, will now require warnings on both the prescribed and over-the-counter versions of the drugs.

Although the medications are highly effective in reducing the amount of stomach acid, they are intended for short-term use. The FDA is advising patients to discuss their medications with their doctors. They have stated that no more than three 14-day courses of the medications should be used within a single year. Alternate heartburn medication, not carrying the same risks, may be a better choice for those with less than severe cases of heartburn.

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