Antiacids are the most effective drugs to reduce the production of acid in the stomach, hence they are prescribed for chronic symptoms of heartburn and reflux.
These are proton pump inhibitor antacids, including omeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole, and esomeprazole, which are in great demand worldwide. The problem is that although they may seem innocuous, regular consumption of these drugs is associated with several health problems.
“We regularly come across patients who self-medicate with this type of treatment,” says Fernando Crovari, a digestive surgeon. For Crovari, one of the most serious dangers of its consumption has to do with the fact that these products mask the symptoms of gastric cancer. One of them is constant abdominal pain.
“We frequently receive patients who have gastric cancer and who have consulted late because they don’t feel discomfort for weeks or months. That is the most worrying part for us,” says the specialist.
These products represent a great advance in the treatment of stomach ulcers, so they serve to save lives. However, the specialist explains that studies have recently appeared associating them with cardiovascular diseases, although the mechanisms are still unclear.
“It’s been postulated that they could cause chronic inflammation and thus lead to heart disease, but that’s just a theory,” says Crovari. He adds that antacids can interfere with calcium absorption, which is why they are also linked to osteoporosis.
A study published in the journal Nature Communications concluded that those who regularly consume this type of medicine are more likely to develop some type of allergy in the future.
It was also observed that the risks of suffering from them increased especially in women and in people over 60 years of age. To reach these conclusions, the authors of the researchers analyzed data from more than 8 million people in Austria.
Another study published in 2017, carried out by the University of Washington, showed that prolonged use of these drugs can increase the risk of mortality due to complications. The study was based on the medical records of 350,000 patients in the United States and was published in the British Medical Journal.
“This entire group of drugs must be taken under medical indication because they do indeed have potential risks when consumed long-term,” reaffirms Andrés Glasinovic, a family doctor at the Las Condes Clinic.
Glasinovic assures that its indiscriminate use has also been associated with the development of dementia. This is what also concludes a study published last year in the medical journal JAMA. This indicated that those over 75 years of age who take proton pump inhibitors have a 44% increased risk of suffering from dementia.
“It is believed that by decreasing the secretion of acid in the stomach, this causes vitamin B12 to be poorly absorbed, which can lead to central nervous system problems,” explains Glasinovic. Both doctors are emphatic that these products should not be stopped in case of illness until a specialist so indicates.