In the U.S. alone, patients are spending over $10 billion a year on prescription and over the counter medications to treat acid reflux.

For patients struggling with acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophogeal reflux disease), many doctors will prescribe PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) or recommend over the counter medication such as Tums, Rolaids, Pepcid, or Zantac. However, the ingredients commonly found in PPIs can cause damage if they are used as long-term solutions to reflux, and they are not the only way to deal with GERD or acid reflux.

How Do Proton Pump Inhibitors Work?

Normally, your stomach produces acid to help digest food and kill germs in the GI tract. This is acid is corrosive, so the body naturally produces a mucous barrier which protects the stomach lining from being worn away by the acid. In some people, there may be a problem with mucosal barrier or the sphincter at the top of the stomach, causing acid to escape and irritate the esophagus. This is called acid reflux or GERD.

PPIs prevent the cells in the lining of the stomach from producing too much acid. They do this by directly blocking the enzyme system that helps to make stomach acid. However, this only treats the symptoms of GERD and not the cause. And it can lead to potentially damaging side-effects.

What’s Inside a Proton Pump Inhibitor?

There are multiple kinds of PPIs with different active ingredients. Let’s look at a few of them:

·      Omeprazole (Prilosec)- along with Lansoprazole this is one of the oldest PPIs on the market, and consequently one of the most familiar to patients and physicians alike. It is available over the counter.

·      Lansoprazole (Prevacid)- along with Omeprazole this is one of the oldest PPIs on the market, and consequently one of the most familiar to patients and physicians alike. It is available over the counter.

·      Dexlansoprazole (Dexilent)- This is a prescription medicine that was approved by the FDA in 2009. It works the same way as other PPIs and with about the same effect.

·      Rabeprazole (Aciphex)- This is a newer PPI and it has data to suggest a better suppression of stomach acid than older medications, however there is no proof that this difference is clinically important.

·      Pantoprazole (Protonix)- Like Rabeprazole, Protonix is a newer and increasingly popular PPI which boasts better acid suppression. However, like Rabeprazole, it is unknown if this suppression is clinically important.

·      Esomeprazole (Nexium)- Esomeprazole (Nexium, or “the Purple Pill”) is one of the more popular prescription drugs to treat GERD or acid reflux. It is a new drug and very potent, however, it is the most expensive of the Proton Pump Inhibitors.

Side Effects & Alternatives 

Because the enzyme system blocked by PPIs is a natural and valuable part of the digestive symptom, long-term PPI use can cause some unhealthy side effects. Some of these side effects include osteoporosis, vitamin B12 deficiency, colitis, PPI-associated pneumonia, dementia, and chronic kidney disease.  

There are other more effective ways to treat GERD. The highly trained specialists and physicians at the Tampa Bay Reflux Center are up to date on all the latest advances in reflux management and treatment, and they offer three cutting surgical procedures that address the root causes of GERD rather than just the symptoms. To learn more about their procedures and information regarding GERD, schedule an appointment at Tampa Bay Reflux Center here.