Mr. C is a 63-year-old man who owns a management consulting firm that focuses on improving the quality of business decisions by using enhanced data analysis.
He had been taking the “purple pill”, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), twice a day for five years for heartburn. His GERD symptoms were initially alleviated by the medication but had slowly become worse, despite continuing the drug.
Given his penchant for data analysis, we sent Mr. C medical studies that outlined other methods of addressing GERD. We also provided information on the side effects of long-term PPI use, including:
- A significant increase in bone fractures, kidney and liver disease,
- A 30% increase in all-cause mortality, mostly from heart disease, kidney failure, and gastric cancer, and
- Difficulty in stopping the drug because the PPI itself causes a rebound hyperacidity which can increase the frequency and severity of GERD pain when stopped.
Although PPI’s became available in 1988, the most convincing data on the increased death rate with PPIs has only been available since 2019.
Mr. C appreciated the information but was disturbed that he had been taking PPIs for years without knowing the health risks. Mr. C had started a protocol to discontinue his PPI use over the next 6 to 12 months. Industry-sponsored “public service” websites minimize the risks while “spinning the truth.”
The Science – The Concerns with Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s)
When PPIs were first released, the FDA stressed that treatment beyond four to eight weeks was not recommended because the long-term safety profile of the drug was unknown. Thirty years later, a 30% increase in mortality was found.