According to the over-the-counter label, Nexium is meant to be used for no more than 14 days during a year. But many patients use the drug as a preventive measure, to avoid any chance of developing acid reflux. This means that they take the medication far longer than they are meant to, putting themselves at risk of developing serious side effects.
One study that suggests an increased risk to patients who have no symptoms of acid reflux was published in July 2011 in the journal Archives of Surgery. The study examined more than 750 patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease who used a proton pump inhibitor. Researchers found that patients who had only mild symptoms of GERD, and those who had no symptoms at all, were 60 percent more likely to have a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Patients who had more severe symptoms of GERD and took a proton pump inhibitor were less likely to have Barrett’s esophagus.
“Patients taking proton pump inhibitors were 61.3% and 81.5% more likely to have adenocarcinogenesis if they reported no severe typical or atypical GERD symptoms, respectively, compared with patients taking proton pump inhibitors, who reported that all symptoms were severe,” researchers wrote. In other words, if patients used a proton pump inhibitor but did not have severe symptoms of GERD, they were more likely to have a precancerous condition.
READ MORE NEXIUM USE AND INCREASED RISK FOR FRACTURE LEGAL NEWS
“The total cost of inappropriate PPI use was $233,994 based on over-the-counter PPI costs and $1,566,252 based on average wholesale costs,” researchers wrote. They concluded that inappropriate use of proton pump inhibitors is associated with “substantial cost expenditure and with the potential for adverse events.”
The studies suggest that patients using proton pump inhibitors without symptoms of GERD not only face increased risks of health problems, but also increased medical costs.