Nexium and Prilosec are two of the most popular anti-heartburn medications in the Proton-Pump Inhibitor (PPI) class.
The first report cited studies comparing PPIs to a different type of anti-heartburn drug called H2 blockers, such as Pepcid AC and Zantac.
These studies found higher rates of side effects in patients who took PPIs for at least one year:
- 20% increased risk of kidney disease
- 15% increased risk of heart attack
- 44% increased risk Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
PPIs also make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients from food, which can lead to osteoporosis (bone loss). Less acid in the stomach also increases the risk of bacterial pneumonia, food poisoning, and some infections.
Consumer Reports called PPIs a “poor choice” for most people with heartburn. Up to 70% of people who take a PPI could get the same relief from a safer remedy. For fast relief, consider Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Tums.
The second report urged caution before starting an anti-heartburn drug because it can be hard to stop. There is a “rebound” effect in which the stomach over-produces acid and causes severe burning pain, nausea, and food coming up in the throat.
It is not clear how PPIs might harm the kidneys. They are known to decrease magnesium levels, which is a risk-factor for kidney disease. They may also cause an inflammatory reaction known as nephritis that could harm the kidneys.
PPIs on the market in the United States include:
- Nexium, Nexium 24HR (esomeprazole)
- Prevacid, Prevacid 24HR (lansoprazole)
- Prilosec, Prilosec OTC (omeprazole)
- Zegerid, Zegerid OTC (omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate)
- Dexilant (dexlansoprazole)
- Protonix (pantoprazole)
- AcipHex (rabeprazole)
Source: Consumer Reports