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Are Acid-Suppressing Drugs Responsible For Vitamin Deficincies?

Q. After taking Aciphex to treat serious heartburn for four years, I developed a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. I complained to my doctor about being extremely tired all the time. I needed to rest after just a simple task.

I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I had to beg to have my B12 levels tested, because my doctor didn’t think it was a problem, but we found out it was.

When I contacted the manufacturer of Aciphex, the company seemed uninterested in my experience. Vitamin B12 levels drop very slowly, so the problem wouldn’t show up in just one year, but studies don’t last longer.

The companies make tons of money on acid reflux drugs and I’d like to see them take some responsibility in studying the long-term consequences of these medications.

A. Acid-suppressing drugs (PPIs) like Aciphex, Nexium, omeprazole, Prevacid, Prilosec and Protonix relieve symptoms of reflux. There is a down side, however. Stomach acid is essential for absorbing certain nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12 and even thyroid hormone (levothyroxine, Synthroid). People who take acid-suppressing drugs long term may be at increased risk for hip fractures.

Cases of vitamin B12 deficiency have been linked to acid suppressor therapy (Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, March, 2008). Symptoms of this nutritional deficiency include fatigue, confusion and memory problems, peripheral neuropathy, constipation or depression.

We are sending you a copy of our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy, with more information on treating severe heartburn and tips for discontinuing PPIs. This book is available in libraries, bookstores and online at this web site.

Getting off acid-suppressing drugs can be challenging. Acid rebound can last for months after stopping such medications.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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