Research Shows Link Between Heartburn Medication and Bone Breaks

It can ruin the most delicious of meals; put the most dedicated fan out of commission just in time for the big game. Millions of Americans deal with the incessant burning sensation centered in the chest after a meal, and many of them reach for heartburn medication such as Prilosec OTC and Prevacid. These medications are proven to work exceptionally well at reducing levels of stomach acid, sometimes to as low as 10% of their original levels. These drugs, especially proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium are now coming under increased scrutiny as researchers have begun to find a link between consuming high doses of the drug for a significant amount of time and broken bones.

The Food and Drug Administration is continuing to investigate the risk of developing brittle bones and an increased risk for fracture as a result of taking proton pump inhibitors, and will now require the drugs to be sold with a warning label. After seven tests done over the course of a decade, the FDA has acknowledged a significant percentage of patients who used the drug were more subject to broken bones, especially around the hips and wrists, than those who were not prescribed the medication. According to NPR, “six of the studies showed an increased risk of fractures, and some showed the risk was greater among people who used higher doses or took the drugs longer.” Research seems to suggest that the longer the drug is taken, the higher risk for fractures. This is substantiated by a Canadian study also referenced by NPR, in which participants who took PPIs for seven years or longer were five times more likely to sustain fractures than those who did not take the medication.

WBZ News medical correspondent Dr. Mallika Marshall explains, “the body can have trouble absorbing vitamins and minerals like magnesium and calcium when PPIs are also being taken.” Calcium, of course, is a major proponent of healthy bone structure.

The FDA now warns that patients should not take the drug for more than 14 days, a far cry from the multiyear renewable prescriptions heartburn sufferers normally experience. For those who suffer from mild to moderate heartburn, the administration suggests switching to antacid tablets, changing their diet, or elevating the head during sleep. The solution becomes a bit more complicated for those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach or small-intestine ulcers, or esophageal inflammation. As with most prescription medications, the FDA warns against eliminating the drug from your regimen suddenly, as it could cause a serious reaction.

Instead, medical professionals recommend slowly changing from PPIs to a different kind of acid-reducing medication such as Zantac, which is an H2 blocker, or considering surgery. Though research has not been conducted over a long enough period of time to determine definite causation, the FDA feels the studies provide enough evidence to merit the warning labels.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a dangerous side effect, such as bone breaks as a result of taking a high dose of PPIs for an extended period of time, you are urged to contact an attorney right away. At the Greater Boston Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP, our dedicated team of Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorneys have decades of experience helping victims of even the most complex pharmaceutical cases. Our attorneys combine the reliable experience of having successfully handled thousands of Personal Injury cases, with the individual attention to understand and respond to the unique nature of your case. We will look into every detail of your case and will explore every legal avenue available in order to deliver legal representation of the highest quality.

At the law offices of Altman & Altman, we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – including nights and weekends to answer any questions regarding your case. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.

Read more NPR

Contact Information