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General Medical Questions
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Question : I’ve been taking 10 mg of Prilosec daily for several years. The over-the-counter product says you should limit proton pump inhibitors to a maximum of 14 days. Is there a reason for limiting who long you take it?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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January 10, 2012
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A:

Drug companies do limit use of any over-the-counter medicine. The main reason is to be sure that you are not masking symptoms of a condition that needs a doctor’s care.

It’s not that proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec) are unsafe to take for more than 14 days. In fact, many people with persistent acid reflux need to take one daily for several months — and sometimes years.

Proton pump inhibitors are the most potent stomach acid blockers. They can dramatically help with symptoms of acid reflux such as heartburn. But if the symptoms keep up for more than 2 weeks, you should see your doctor for these reasons:

  • Some lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms of acid reflux. So you may need less medicine, which can save you money. Also taking a PPI for a very long time can cause your bones to thin and raise your risk of certain infections.
  • The symptoms might be caused by a condition other than acid reflux. For example, you might have a peptic ulcer. Peptic ulcers are often caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria that live in the stomach lining. You need antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection, heal the ulcer and help stop it from coming back.

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