Roni Caryn Rabin:
As many as four in 10 Americans have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and many depend on P.P.I.’s like Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium to reduce stomach acid. These are the third highest-selling class of drugs in the United States, after antipsychotics and statins, with more than 100 million prescriptions and $13.9 billion in sales in 2010, in addition to over-the-counter sales.
But in recent years, the Food and Drug Administration has issued numerous warnings about P.P.I.’s, saying long-term use and high doses have been associated with an increased risk of bone fractures and infection with a bacterium called Clostridium difficile that can be especially dangerous to elderly patients. In a recent paper, experts recommended that older adults use the drugs only “for the shortest duration possible.”