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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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