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How safe are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)?

Proton pump inhibitors are over-the-counter medicines that help relieve heartburn and treat ulcers. They are generally safe but should not be used long term without the approval of your doctor. This is because long-term use can increase the risk of decreased bone density, electrolyte problems, pneumonia and a severe gut infection called C. diff.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Talking about a drug being “safe” is relative. Generally, no drug should be taken continuously without a doctor’s supervision. Some people with conditions like Zollinger-Ellison syndrome or Barrett’s esophagus need acid control that a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) provides. However, many people take PPIs for long periods for heart burn without a prescription when it’s not necessary. PPIs taken for a long time (longer than a year) have been implicated in B-12 deficiency and increased fracture risk because stomach acid is needed to absorb some nutrients.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.