Proton pump inhibitors are amongst the most widely prescribed and over prescribed medications worldwide. Although generally considered well tolerated, epidemiologic studies mining large databases have reported a wide range of purported serious adverse effects associated with proton pump inhibitors, including chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline, myocardial infarction, stroke, bone fracture and even death.
It should be noted that the quality of the evidence underlying these associations is very low and these studies, by design, cannot ascribe cause and effect. Nonetheless, these associations have been sensationalized in the media and misinterpreted by patients and providers. Unintended consequences of the fake news are that patients are not being prescribed and/or taking clinical guideline-recommended proton pump inhibitors to prevent and treat complications from gastroesophageal reflux disease and upper gastrointestinal bleeding precipitated by NSAIDs and dual antiplatelet therapies. In addition, physicians, who already have limited time to interact with their patients, are spending an inordinate amount of additional time placing these findings into proper perspective and reassuring their patients when initiating treatment as well as on every follow-up visit.
Most of the recent highly publicized serious adverse effects ascribed to proton pump inhibitors are not based on demonstrable evidence. Nevertheless, when proton pump inhibitors are prescribed long-term, they should be used at the lowest effective dose and the need for their use periodically reassessed.