Proton Pump Inhibitor Drugs
Proton Pump Inhibitors – Overview
Proton pump inhibitors are the third highest selling class of drugs in the United States.
Amongst all the drugs sold in the U.S., Nexium (sometimes called “The Purple Pill”), is the second highest, with retail sales topping $4.8 billion in 2008.
It’s been estimated that the annual advertising and promotional budget assigned to PPIs by the pharmaceutical giants, is greater than the average Third World country’s yearly Gross Domestic Product.
With this colossal expenditure, it’s not surprising that most of the potential PPI side effects are swept under the rug.
Apart from that, the Madison Avenue crowd has succeeded in giving stomach acid a bad reputation.
Finally, two generic brands, Prilosec and Protonix, are now freely available over the counter without a doctor’s prescription… with a third (Prevacid 24HR) soon to follow…
The net result?
People are rabidly abandoning the old acid reflux standby’s in favor of the more effective (and more expensive) proton pump inhibitor. Unfortunately, many of them do so without first consulting their health-care provider.
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How do Proton Pump Inhibitors Work?
Your stomach lining is populated with glands called "Proton pumps" that secrete hydrochloric acid essential for digestion. PPIs block an enzyme required for the production of stomach acid. When this enzyme is blocked, acid production decreases or stops altogether while the drug is active.
This makes regurgitated stomach acid less corrosive, with the following results:
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Why is Stomach Acid Necessary?
Stomach acid serves a number of essential bodily functions:
Are Proton Pump Inhibitors Right for You?
PPIs are very effective and relatively safe in the short term, but not everyone needs them.
If you have been diagnosed with GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), short-term use of PPIs is probably best for you.
However, do not to exceed the 8-week dosage period as recommended on the FDA approved package insert; long-term use could result in dangerous side effects.
On the other hand, if you only suffer from occasional heartburn episodes, don't waste your money, you’d be better off taking a level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in a little water, or over the counter (OTC) antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Tums.
These antacids usually bring immediate relief. Unfortunately their effect wears off within two or three hours.
OTC H2 blockers, such as Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac or Axid, take a little longer to stop the pain, however their effect lasts for 12 hours or more and they are fairly safe, provided you don't overdo it.
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