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Heartburn Drugs Are Hard to Stop

Q. Your advice on getting off acid-suppressing drugs (PPIs) makes it clear you’ve never experienced rebound reflux. I am a nurse, and I take omeprazole, lansoprazole or whatever other PPI I can get.

I just laughed at your suggestion that “gradual tapering might be beneficial.” Rebound reflux is unlike any heartburn you’ve ever experienced; it is much worse than reflux before PPIs. Nothing touches it, not antacids, not water, not milk, nothing. It is the most fierce, insistent pain you can imagine. The only thing that stops it is taking another PPI pill.

I have tried tapering but I can never get much past a day before I need more. Tums and Rolaids have absolutely no effect. Someone needs to look into this and try to figure out how those of us who were prescribed Prilosec and other PPIs 15 years ago can stop taking them. It’s the one medication you will NEVER forget to take!

A. Gastroenterologists disagree about the difficulty of stopping an acid suppressing drug such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec) and rabeprazole (Aciphex). A Danish study (Gastroenterology, Jul. 2009) found that people without heartburn experienced distressing reflux after stopping proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Other specialists, however, are skeptical (Editorial, American Journal of Gastroenterology, Jul. 2010). Suggestions for stopping PPIs with ginger, DGL and probiotics can be found at PeoplesPharmacy.com. You will also find helpful hints for this in our Guide to Digestive Disorders. Difficulty stopping a medication is a common problem that is discussed in our new book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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