Q. I have been taking Protonix for heartburn for at least six months. After I learned that long-term use might lead to complications, I tried to stop taking it. Big mistake!
After about a week, I had to start taking it again due to severe heartburn–the rebound effect, I suppose. I asked my pharmacist how to discontinue acid-suppressing drugs but she was unable to find out. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Rebound heartburn may make it difficult to stop medications such as Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec or Protonix. As a result, people sometimes end up taking such drugs for years. The consequences might include an increased risk of pneumonia, hip fractures and vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to nerve damage or cognitive problems.
We spoke recently with Tieraona Low Dog, MD, Director of Education for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. She recommends a gradual approach for discontinuing acid-suppressors.
Dr. Low Dog suggests taking ginger capsules and chewing DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) tablets as you phase out Protonix. Probiotics may also be helpful during this time. There is much more information about the pros and cons of acid-suppressing drugs and many non-drug approaches for controlling reflux and heartburn in our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy. It is available in libraries, bookstores and online at www.peoplespharmacy.com.