I saw an ad in a prominent health magazine the other day that ticked me off. It’s an ad for Prilosec, an over-the-counter proton pump inhibitor (PPI). The ad said, “Suffering from heartburn day after day is as unnecessary as wearing sleeves.” (Larry the Cable Guy was in the ad—he never wears sleeves; thus, the reference.)

 The ad went on to say, “Don’t be one of them folks (again, Larry the Cable Guy influenced) who gets heartburn and then treats, day after day. Block the acid by treating your frequent heartburn with Prilosec OTC and don’t get heartburn in the first place.”

 This ad talks about how you shouldn’t take other heartburn products every day after you get heartburn, but instead you should take Prilosec before you even get heartburn. They don’t directly tell you to take Prilosec every day, but it is certainly implied in the ad. The crazy thing is, Prilosec should not be taken for more than two weeks in a row, and not more often than every four months. There is even a little disclaimer right on the ad (required by the FDA):

 “Use as directed for 14 days to treat frequent heartburn. Do not take for more than 14 days or more often than every 4 months unless directed by a doctor.” It also says, “Not for immediate relief.”

I find this ad very misleading. People are taking PPIs—over-the-counter and prescription—way too often, and for way too long. No one is reading the fine print. 

This week, if you are taking proton pump inhibitors, talk to your doctor about the risks, and about what you can do reduce the symptoms in the first place—without resorting to these dangerous medications.