UNITED STATES – A study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that many older Americans’ prescriptions for proton pump inhibitors are exceeding their recommended duration. In other words, people are taking these medications for too long and past the point of therapeutic benefit.
Proton pump inhibitors are commonly prescribed to patients experiencing heartburn and complications from acid reflux. They include well-known brands like Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid. Many of these drugs are now available over the counter. Doctors also prescribe proton pump inhibitors to patients who are taking blood thinners as a way of preventing gastrointestinal bleeding.
When prescribed for heartburn, the drugs should only be taken for a period of about eight weeks, after which patients’ symptoms should be re-evaluated. As a treatment for heartburn and acid reflux, proton pump inhibitors are not intended to be taken long-term. However, a recent study that analyzed the proton pump inhibitor prescriptions of nearly 400 older Americans (age 65 and older) found that 36 percent of the prescriptions were no longer medically necessary.
The study’s lead author, Dr. John Mafi, said that while most of the prescriptions the researchers analyzed started out as treatment for indicated conditions, the patients took them well beyond the time necessary to resolve those conditions. Proton pump inhibitors are just one example of this type of situation, the study authors pointed out, as older adults often fall into cycles of refilling prescriptions they no longer need. Taking unnecessary medications can sometimes prove harmful to patients, the authors said.
Mafi recommended that patients taking proton pump inhibitors for GI issues talk to their doctors about the necessity of the medications. Patients should not stop taking their medications without talking to their doctors. Mafi also recommended that medical facilities take steps to prevent unnecessary prescription refills.
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