Proton Pump Inhibitors

Jul 16, 2020

In my experience, the class of drugs called Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s) – Prilosec, Nexium, Dexilant, Aciphex, Protonix etc. – for stomach acid reduction and reflux are over prescribed. Not only can the symptoms for most people be managed with diet and nutritional supplements, but they also come with a long list of bad side effects including: osteoporosis, food allergies, vitamin B12 deficiency, pneumonia and even an association with a higher risk for death (no joke). Now there is another significant reason to avoid these drugs. A study published July 7 in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that people who took a single daily dose of a PPI were twice as likely to get infected with the COVID-19 virus than the general population. If they took the drug twice daily, they were four times more likely to get the infection. It is not yet clear what the reason is for this correlation. H2 blockers (Tagamet, Pepcid), drugs which also reduce stomach acid, but not as much, did not have the same issue with increasing COVID-19 infection rates. 

Some PPI’s are sold over the counter and they are heavily advertised on television, so it necessary to be savvy and aware of the potential risks. These are not always explained by doctors. Many performers are on this class of medications long term because their ENT is treating hoarseness and chronic sore throat which are sometimes caused by reflux of stomach acid. PPI’s are a very aggressive treatment for reflux. While I do not wish to cause any fear in those on these medications, my recommendation to anyone on long term PPI’s is to try and get off of them as soon as possible. Speak to a qualified practitioner of natural medicine who can work with you, or speak to your doctor about changing from a PPI to a H2 blocker. I personally am managing most of my patients with this issue via telemedicine so as to not require any exposure to a medical office during the current pandemic.