PPIs are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in Canada. They are also available without a prescription, but under pharmacist control (behind the counter). They are used to relieve the symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn, as well as other more severe conditions such as esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus.
While PPIs are safe and generally cause no adverse effects when used over a short period, prolonged use can carry some risks. For example, they may increase the risk of fractures, severe diarrhea and pneumonia. These risks increase along with age and duration of treatment.
Individuals who take PPIs for heartburn on a regular basis should take the time to speak to their doctor or pharmacist about whether it is appropriate for them to continue their treatment. The CPhA recommends attempting a dose reduction, or a gradual complete cessation of the treatment.
There are other options for relieving occasional heartburn, such as antacids and acid reducers. Antacids act within a few minutes, but their effect doesn’t last long. Acid reducers take longer to take effect (about 30 to 60 minutes), but their effect lasts longer.
Don’t neglect the impact that lifestyle can have on your acid reflux and heartburn:
- don’t lie down after eating
- avoid or reduce your consumption of spicy or acidic foods
- consume alcohol in moderation
- lose a bit of weight if needed
- sleep with your head elevated
If you have any questions on the treatment of heartburn, don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.