A consumer watchdog group, Public Citizen, has formally petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to warn Americans that use of acid reflux medications, otherwise known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), can be incredibly habit forming and also lead to the onset of several other serious side effects. Given the widespread use and popularity of these medications, Public Citizen has asked the FDA to require that the drugs carry the agency’s strongest possible warning, a black-box label.

In the petition filed with the FDA, Public Citizen asked that more warnings regarding dependency and other side effects associated with use of these drugs be updated on product labels, patient medication guides and “Dear Doctor” letters. The group alleges that a large number of patients taking acid reflux medications are doing so without a clear need for them. They also note that patients taking proton-pump inhibitors on a regular basis are at increased risk of developing rebound acid hypersecretion, which ultimately results in more severe acid reflux symptoms. The greater the acid reflux symptoms, the greater the need for medication, creating a cycle of life-long dependency on the drugs.

Additionally, the group outlined several other safety concerns associated with use of these medications. Side effects linked to acid reflux drugs include: severe magnesium deficiencies, painful muscle cramps, cardiac arrhythmias, negative interactions with other medications, pneumonia and fractures of the hip, spine and wrist. The group also noted that the risk of dependency associated with use of the drugs is not currently listed on product labels in any way.

The specific acid reflux medications in question includes, Prilosec (omeprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole) and Prevacid (lansoprazole), all of which are approved to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastric ulcers, erosive esophagitis and gastric bleeding.

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