How long should I use a proton pump inhibitor?
BY: Jane Shiyen Chou
If you have frequent heartburn -- i.e., heartburn that occurs two or more days a week -- the FDA says it’s OK to try an over-the-counter proton pump inhibitor for up to two weeks, according to pharmacist Rosemary R. Berardi, who holds a doctorate in pharmacy and is a professor at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. But if you still have heartburn after two weeks of self-treatment, she says, “you need to see your doctor.”
Once you consult your doctor, he may tell you to continue taking a proton pump inhibitor for more than two weeks, and that’s OK. If your symptoms are related to GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), a typical course of doctor-prescribed treatment is four to eight weeks, according to Berardi. If you also have esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), Berardi explains, you may need additional “maintenance therapy of up to a year or more to maintain healing and prevent symptoms from recurring. But most patients do not need therapy for more than a year,” she says.
Bottom line: Proton pump inhibitors are serious medications intended for people with frequent heartburn. Berardi says that people need to know that they “can’t take [proton pump inhibitors] forever and ever without consulting a physician.” But when taken appropriately and under a doctor’s care, proton pump inhibitors can provide safe and effective treatment “for as long as a patient needs it,” she says.
Jane Shiyen Chou, managing editor of Live Right Live Well, has more than 20 years of experience editing and writing for national consumer magazines and Web sites. She specializes in health, nutrition, fitness and parenting, and was a former editor at Family Circle, Redbook, Baby Talk, Child and McCall's magazines.