Prevacid is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) intended for short-term treatment of ulcers and acid reflux. Chronic use of the medication is associated with several serious health risks that can result in permanent injury and/or death.
Prevacid is used to treat certain gastrointestinal problems and relieve symptoms of acid reflux, such as heartburn. It is generally intended for short-term use (anywhere from 10 days to 12 weeks), although it is often used off-label for longer periods of time.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially approved Prevacid in 1995. Recent studies link Prevacid to several serious health risks, especially when taken long-term.
Some of the risks associated with Prevacid, including allergic reactions, can result in serious injury or death. Patients should speak with their doctors before starting or stopping Prevacid.
What Prevacid Treats
Prevacid is used to treat ulcers, including duodenal and gastric ulcers. This includes gastric ulcers associated with the use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
These types of ulcers are collectively called peptic ulcers, which are open sores occurring in the lining of the stomach or upper portion of the small intestine.
Prevacid is also used to get rid of H. pylori bacteria in the digestive tract to reduce the risk of duodenal ulcers.
Other conditions Prevacid treats include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), erosive esophagitis (damage to the esophagus due to acid reflux) and Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES), a disease of the gastrointestinal system that causes tumors called gastrinomas to develop in the pancreas and duodenum.
How Prevacid Works
Prevacid works by decreasing the amount of acid in the stomach. It does this by blocking the enzyme in the stomach wall that is responsible for producing the acid, thereby stopping the acid from being released into the stomach.
This gives the stomach and esophagus time to heal, and prevents further damage and complications, including the development or recurrence of ulcers.
Prevacid does not work right away. Patients might not experience improvement in their symptoms until about three to four days after starting Prevacid.
How to Take Prevacid
Prevacid is administered orally. It is available in delayed-release capsules and delayed-release orally disintegrating tablets called Prevacid SoluTab.
Prevacid is available by prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), which means without a prescription. Prevacid purchased without a prescription is called Prevacid 24HR.
Studies have found that Prevacid 24HR often works just as well as prescription Prevacid.
OTC Prevacid is only available in a 15 mg dose and not the 30 mg dose available with prescription Prevacid.
One Prevacid 24HR 15 mg pill, taken once a day for 14 days, is intended to prevent acid reflux that causes heartburn for a full 24 hours. Prevacid 24HR users should not take the drug for more than 14 days or more often than every four months.
Serious Risks and Side Effects of Prevacid
Prevacid, along with other similar heartburn drugs, has been linked to several serious risks, especially when taken long-term (usually longer than one year).
These risks may be greater for certain populations, including the elderly, those with other health conditions or those taking Prevacid along with other medications, such as antibiotics.
One potential risk of Prevacid is kidney injury. People who suffered kidney failure or whose loved ones died after taking PPIs filed lawsuits against the manufacturers of Prevacid and other PPIs.
The FDA has issued numerous safety communications since 2010.
Serious risks linked to Prevacid and other PPIs include:
Osteoporosis and fractures of the hip, wrist and spine
Kidney disease and kidney failure due to acute interstitial nephritis (AIN), which affects the spaces between the kidney tubules (interstitium)
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Lupus erythematosus (autoimmune disease)
Prevacid can also cause serious allergic reactions. Patients should seek emergency medical treatment if they experience rash, swelling of the face, tightness in the throat, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or chest pain after taking Prevacid.
Prevacid does not usually cause side effects when taken short-term as directed. When side effects do occur, they are typically mild, including diarrhea (not severe), mild stomach pain, nausea, constipation, and headache.
Who Should Not Take Prevacid?
People who are allergic to lansoprazole or any of the other ingredients in Prevacid should not take this medication.
Patients with other health conditions such as low blood magnesium, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and individuals taking other medicines or supplements should check with their doctors before taking Prevacid.
Prevacid SoluTab contains phenylalanine (an amino acid and component of aspartame) that can be harmful to patients with phenylketonuria (PKE). PKE is the inability to properly break down phenylalanine.
Lansoprazole, the active ingredient in Prevacid, is not effective in treating symptomatic GERD in infants.
Prevacid can interact with other medications when taken together. This interaction can cause one or both medicines to work differently or stop working altogether. It can also result in adverse reactions, including the appearance or worsening of side effects.
Prevacid may interact with the following drugs
Antiretrovirals (rilpivirine, atazanavir and nelfinavir)
Decreased or increased exposure
Increased risk of bleeding or death
Can potentially lead to methotrexate toxicity due to elevated and prolonged exposure in the bloodstream
Increased clearance of theophylline
Drugs dependent on gastric pH for absorption (iron salts)
Antibiotics (clarithromycin and amoxicillin)
Possible serious adverse reactions, including potentially fatal arrhythmias
CYP2C19 or CYP3A4 inducers (St. John’s Wort, rifampin and Ritonavir-containing products)
Decreased exposure of Prevacid
CYP2C19 or CYP3A4 inhibitors (voriconazole)
Increased exposure of Prevacid
Decreased and delayed absorption of Prevacid
Decreased effectiveness of clopidogrel, thereby increasing the patient’s risk of heart attack
People taking Prevacid may also test positive for neuroendocrine tumors, gastrinoma and THC use.
Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.
Kristin Compton is a medical writer with a background in legal studies. She has experience working in law firms as a paralegal and legal writer. She also has worked in journalism and marketing. She’s published numerous articles in a northwest Florida-based newspaper and lifestyle/entertainment magazine, as well as worked as a ghost writer on blog posts published online by a Central Florida law firm in the health law niche. As a patient herself, and an advocate, Kristin is passionate about “being a voice” for others.