General Interest

Acid-Suppressants: More Than We Bargain For?

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Paula Span, in a recent article in the New York Times, has sounded the alarm against overuse of what may very well be the “most widely prescribed medications” – acid-inhibitors. If you have a television set in your life, then you’re familiar with them (even if you don’t take them). You know them as Zantac, Pepcid, Prevacid, Prilosec – and others. So, why is this a problem and why should we care?

Why This Is A Problem. Over-use of these acid-inhibitors has been shown to have side effects that are especially significant in older patients. Some of these drugs are linked to increases in pneumonia, gastrointestinal infections and, in some cases, bone fractures from osteoporosis. Many of us consider these to be “wonder-drugs” – after all, they ease the discomfort significantly. Yet, indiscriminant use can cause trouble – real trouble, for those of us who are aging (and who among us is not?).

Why Should We Care. In her article, Span quotes a specialist in esophageal diseases, Dr. Nicholas Shaheen: “They (acid-inhibitors) can be used indiscriminately for any ache between someone’s chin and knees.” Span goes on to reference another study that shows that while only 29% of patients admitted to a hospital were previously taking acid suppressants, 70%+ were using the medications when they left the hospital – even though they didn’t suffer from any condition that called for the use of these drugs. So, why should we care? We should care because if we don’t watch out carefully for ourselves and our aging loved ones, it’s unlikely that anyone else will. Indiscriminant use of these drugs can lead us down a slippery path.

Certainly, if you need them, you need them! But is it possible that you just might be able to do without? Who needs pneumonia as we age? or gastrointestinal infections? or a broken hip?

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