Prolonged and indiscriminate consumption of acid blockers — a habit thousands of Calcuttans cannot do away with — does more harm than good.
Doctors said popping acid-blocker pills for a long period could lead to certain types of diarrhoea and pneumonia and affect vital organs such as the liver.
“Proton-pump inhibitors are very powerful drugs that have quite an impact on the physiology of the body,” said Peter Trewby, the associate director for international medical graduates at the Royal College of Physicians, London.
Trewby was in Calcutta to speak at Medicon International 2013, a two-day symposium that ended on Sunday. It was jointly organised by the Royal College of Physicians, Peerless Hospital and BK Roy Foundation.
Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a group of drugs whose primary action is to reduce gastric acid production.
Omeprazole and Pantoprazole are two of the commonest PPIs available under various brand names.
Doctors said these acid blockers were different from antacids. While antacids create a layer on the internal wall of the stomach to protect it from acids, the PPIs drastically lessen the secretion of acids.
Trewby said side effects of PPI drugs could lead to enteric diseases like diarrhoea caused by microbes.
There is a high incidence of pneumonia among those who regularly take acid-blocker medicines.
“When the acid in the stomach doesn’t process the food, some gastric juices are formed and the stomach gives a squeeze from time to time. Then the gastric juices can penetrate the oesophagus and enter the lungs, causing pneumonia,” explained Trewby, a consultant physician and gastroenterologist at Darlington Memorial Hospital, UK.
He said one could manage excess secretion of acids without drugs by just adopting simple lifestyle and dietary changes. “These drugs are used to treat ulcers. But ulcers are caused by a bacterium, Helicobacter Pylori. Instead of using acid blockers the bacteria should be killed to cure the ulcer,” he explained.
Doctors said acid blockers could damage the gastroenteric system.
“Gastric acids play an important role in killing harmful bacteria, fungus and virus that enter the gastroenteric system through food. If the acid-secretion system is blocked, these microbes can cause serious and chronic illnesses,” said surgical gastroenterologist Sanjay De Bakshi.
According to doctors, there was hardly any awareness against PPI overuse. “In Calcutta, it’s a common practice to buy acid blockers over the counter without any prescription. These drugs should be taken only when recommended by a doctor,” De Bakshi added.
The doctors said continuous and long-time consumption of acid blockers could damage the liver.
“These medicines are metabolised in the liver before it moves to the stomach. The PPIs have significant potential to cause injury to the liver,” said Abhijit Chowdhury, the head of the department of liver diseases at the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER)-SSKM.
KNOW YOUR ACID KILLER
Called proton-pump inhibitors, acid blockers primarily reduce gastric acid production
Acid blockers are different from antacids, which form a lining on the stomach wall to protect it from acids. PPIs drastically lessen the secretion of acids needed to kill harmful microbes
According to Peter Trewby of the Royal College of Physicians, London, these are powerful drugs that cause enteric diseases such as diarrhoea
Prolonged PPI use can cause pneumonia and
damage the liver
In Calcutta, people buy acid blockers over the counter without doctor’s advice
Omeprazole and Pantoprazole are the commonest PPIs available under various brand names