The People's Perspective on Medicine

Heartburn Drugs Trigger Mysterious Rash That May Be Linked to Autoimmune Condition

Q. When I read in your newsletter that PPIs like omeprazole can trigger an autoimmune rash, I almost fell out of bed. My husband has had an awful skin condition for six months. It began about two months after he started taking omeprazole for heartburn. Doctors have been unable to diagnose it, despite many tests, and he’s been wondering if he’ll have it for the rest of his life. He will stop taking omeprazole immediately.

Fortunately I own your book on home remedies, and there are 12 pages devoted to heartburn. I’m sure at least one of the remedies will work. I hope the rash will be gone in three months, but however long it takes, it’s far better to have something to try than to have no clue at all about what to do.

A. PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. Millions swallow esomeprazole (the “purple pill” known as Nexium) or similar medications such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec) daily.

Although these acid suppressors have been available for nearly 25 years, there is nothing in the official prescribing information to warn doctors about an autoimmune skin condition called subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus.

Danish dermatologists have linked such a widespread blistering rash to PPI use (British Journal of Dermatology, March, 2014). Stopping such drugs suddenly, however, can be challenging since rebound hyperacidity can cause horrific heartburn.

Our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, offers many non-drug approaches to controlling indigestion.

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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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I took Prilosec (PPI medicine) 2 years ago and developed an awful blistery rash. I was told by GI and Dermatology that it was not from Prilosec. I stopped it anyway and my rash went away after 3 weeks. Recently I started Nexium (PPT medicine) for stomach acid and bloating and developed the same rash. Went to my Dr. who game me medication for rash and took me off Nexium- 2 days later my rash is better. So, yes, PPIs can give you a skin rash.

I took nexium for years with no problem but started with the generic for it. Now I have a weird rash. Don’t know if it’s from that but didn’t change anything else.

GERP is not “indigestion.” PPIs like prevacid are not to treat heartburn, but rather much more serious conditions where acid strips the walls of the esophagus, making for a rather constant and very painful condition. Just worth noting when you shrug off perfectly good medicine for home remedies.

I have been on Prilosec for almost five months after seeing gastroenterologist for complaining of too many disruptive bowel movements over several hours in the morning. A regular colonoscopy was done with no problems, along with an upper GI X-ray,which found a slight opening in my esophagus. I had no acid reflux but was convinced by doctor of the risk of acid backing up and causing further esophageal damage. I was also told about a more recent study in UK that debunked many of the fears of bone loss from PPIs. So he said to take it for a year and then get blood tests to be sure there is no loss of b12 and other nutrients.

I developed an awful itchy rash on my back and somewhat on my stomach four months out. It was this site that helped me put 2 and 2 together. So I started dumping out half capsule and then 3/4 of capsules until down to nothing. I went to see my primary doctor about this and was told to quit entirely and go on Zantac which I was told also has some antihistamine effects which can help the rash. I’m giving my body a rest for a few more days, taking nothing, and already the itch has decreased by half. I also have a weak immune system from being asplenic but never had a problem like this. All your sharing helped me. Thank you. I hope mine helps someone too.

I just took Omeprazole once in 2 days and Prilosec 3 tablets for 2 days and I had some rashes and blisters and painful lower right and left back pain in the kidney areas. Painful arm muscles as if I was beaten up or I came from Karate lessons. I also am itchy when taking antibiotics. What’s wrong with my body with medications?

I want to add a followup to my original post, the Q. at the top of this page. My husband refused to stop the omeprazole gradually and went off it completely the next day. He found that several of the suggested remedies helped his heartburn, most notably almonds after meals, and he had no severe kickback. His rash eased up almost immediately and was gone completely in a few weeks. He had also been having mental symptoms like cloudy thinking and memory problems and these too went away. Recently he was diagnosed with a malignant growth in his colon (for which he is soon to have surgery) and we are wondering if there is any connection to the omeprazole, though I have never heard of one.

I finally figured that Omepraxole has been causing all over itching since last April. I thought it was another med I was on. I had no idea it could cause it until one day I took a chance to look it up. I have been off of Omeprazol for five days and have experienced a Drastic decrease in itching!

I was also told that I had gastridus too

After I got Divticulitus the gastro put me on heartburn meds now I take over the counter acid reducers and I had a terrible itchy rash on both arms going on over two years now I was to alergest derm and they can’t figure it out I don’t know if I have a combination of things causing this rash like sensitive reaction to certain foods that also trigger the heartburn.

That’s good to know. Thank you DC

I learned from the Dr. Oz show that taking Melotonin about an hour before bed would prevent acid reflux at nite. Works for me. Hopefully, it will help you.

I’ve been taking Prilosec daily for 9 months. Just had an endoscopy that confirmed chronic gastritis. Dr said to gradually cut back to Prilosec every other day and suggested a low/fat free, non spicy diet with limited tomato, caffeine and alcohol intake.
About 2 months ago I developed a rash on my abdomen and back (20% coverage with little red dots). Been on antibiotics for 1 week with some improvement but it’s still there.
Will be watching this site for any successful remedies.

This is very interesting. I do not normally have problems with heartburn, but when I was pregnant I had horrible nausea and developed heartburn on top of it and was not able to keep anything down. I took Nexium for a month with good effect, but then insurance would not cover it any longer.
I switched to Prilosec and developed a strange itchy rash on my arms. I had severe itching and skin sensitivity with pregnancy already, but the rash was a new thing, and my doctor attributed it to the Prilosec.
I stopped taking it, but the rash took several months to clear and even persisted after I delivered. As far as I know, I haven’t had any other long term consequences.

Drinking 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon raw honey in a mug of hot water with a meal can help digest food and avoid heartburn. There are several things that can heal the stomach lining and prevent heartburn as well. These include cabbage juice, aloe Vera juice and slippery elm bark. I also find digestive enzymes eliminate the heartburn.

I knew someone years ago who had rheumatoid arthritis. When the then great new wonder drug-Tagamet-came out, her doctor, a rheumatologist at a major university medical center, told her never to take it, as someone with already auto-immune problems would be extra prone to developing drug-induced lupus. So there was some awareness, at least among doctors doing research. But there can be a world of difference between these specialists and your local doc.

I urge you to come off the medication gradually. I was on Zantac, started to gradually reduce the dosage, finally was off the Zantac. Then, a new situation began. I lost my voice…….for 3 months. Long story short, I am back on the Zantac only at night. It seems that the acid backs up when I lie down. I hope to find a natural remedy, and intend to try peppermint soon.

Hopefully someone will comment with a remedy that can help you.

I took Omeprazole and similar products for quite some time. This was suggested by a specialist and when I mentioned that the drugs were only to be used for 14 days, I was told that this was just a protection by the manufacturer of the drug against any law suits. I was informed that I needed to take this dug forever. After reading about the osteoporosis issues, and other side effects I decided– enough is enough.
I cut down the Omeprazole by taking it every two days and then gradually cutting the dose in half. This was done after several weeks duration. I do not take it anymore.
I don’t have any heartburn anymore and I’m delighted that I had the fortitude to stop. We all know that there is an interaction of the various drugs we take and by eliminating some of them, may make our life better. I feel the gastroenterologist and his nurse practitioner were only interested in their field of expertise and not in great scheme of things pertaining to my body.
Let me add one thing yet, there are times when I relapse and eat the wrong foods late in the day. Then I must suffer and use regular antacids. When I expect a great meal such as Thanksgiving dinner, I take one of my remaining Omeprazole pills in the morning and this always works for me.

would like to receive comments here. thanks.

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