Proton pump inhibitors (like PrevAcid and Prilosec) are the third-most used drug in the United States, accounting for billions of dollars in sales every year.
And they’ve been a lifesaver for a lot of us, particularly those in their mid 20s and older who are hit hard by acid reflux disease. We love coffee, we love pizza, fruit juice, cake, etc., but these foods can mean pain and lost sleep for people who respond by making too much acid.
Over the last few years, there’ve been dozens of reports, mostly based on correlative studies, that PPIs may be bad for some people. PPI use has been associated with calcium loss, heart attack, and irregular platelet count.
This week in Circulation, doctors at my hospital, Stanford Medical School, and Imperial College London report that PPIs interfere with a crucial chemical signal pathway that eventually leads to tightened blood vessels that never fully relax (in mice, but the chemical response was confirmed in human tissue culture).
A large-scale study of the general human population is needed to know for sure whether PPIs are dangerous, even to people who are active and healthy. But as a user of PPIs myself, I’ll admit I’m troubled.