What is Omeprazole?
Omeprazole is part of a class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors. Omeprazole has been approved for use in patients from one year of age. This medication is manufactured by AstraZeneca, and a non prescription version (Prilosec OTC) is also available.
Prilosec was the top selling prescription drug among seniors and was commonly marketed as the "The Purple Pill". A newer version was later released under the name Nexium, after the generic omeprazole became more widely available.
Omeprazole works by blocking the enzyme in the wall of the stomach that produces acid. In doing so the acid isn’t completely stopped, but rather reduced so that the body can heal itself from certain ailments outlined below. It is predominantly available in capsule and powder form, with the injection not available in the United States. Omeprazole is also considered quite safe and was approved by the FDA in 1989.
Omeprazole is used to treat conditions in which patients have excessive amounts of acid in the stomach such as heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is more commonly known as acid reflux. Omeprazole can also be used to support the healing of erosive esophagitis, which is damage originating from stomach acid to your oesophagus. Examples of such damages are inflammation, swelling or irritation.
It is also important to note that Omeprazole is not an acid reflux medication that works instantly on heartburn. After being in the system for a few days, the medication aims to stop the acid reflux from returning; therefore regular and continuous use of this medication is recommended.
How Omeprazole Works
There are a number of small pumps inside the stomach (proton pumps) which produce the stomach acid. When these become overactive, it can lead to GERD as well as stomach and intestinal ulcers. This medication works by binding to the proton pumps and stopping the production of stomach acid. By reducing the amount of stomach acid in the body, it helps the esophagus to heal from the effects of the acid.
Precautions to Take when Using this Medication
Patients who are given a prescription for this medication should advise their doctor if they suffer from any of the following conditions:
- Allergy to any of the ingredients in the medication
- Hypomagnesaemia (low magnesium levels in the blood)
- Any form of liver disease or liver failure
- If they are pregnant or breastfeeding
It is important to note that if this drug is used by the patient for longer than one year, their risk of developing hip, spine or wrist fractures (osteoporosis related) may increase substantially. Because of this, the dosage should be kept as low as possible and the treatment time should be as short as possible.
Patients should always take the dosage recommended by their doctor and not change it without discussing it with their doctor. The patient should advise their doctor if they are using any herbal or prescription medications before using this drug, so that the doctor can make informed decisions regarding their specific dosage and duration of treatment.