Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. has a problem with heartburn meds, and this group wants to help

People in this province are hard on the prescription heartburn pills, and in turn, the pills can be hard on them.

SaferMedsNL wants to get people off prescription heartburn pills

SaferMedsNL is a group of medical professionals and students promoting the safer use of prescription drugs. (SaferMedsNL/Facebook)

People in this province are hard on the prescription heartburn pills, and in turn, the pills can be hard on them.

SaferMedsNL is a group dedicated to fixing problems with overprescribing in Newfoundland and Labrador. This summer, it's taking the show on the road, and PPIs — proton pump inhibitors, which reduce a person's production of stomach acid — are in the spotlight.

Drugs like Nexium and Prilosec are popular in the province, with one-third of respondents to a survey saying they take them regularly.

"Newfoundland and Labrador does have some of the highest use of heartburn medication compared to the rest of Canada," said Kelda Newport of SaferMedsNL. "But it's really difficult to know if it's because we have a higher prevalence of reflux, or is it because we are really great and effective at treating reflux or heartburn."

Newport's concern lies with the length of time people stay on the drugs. Studies have suggested links between prolonged use and things like allergies, bone fractures, kidney disease and more.

"Oftentimes you don't stop them when they are no longer needed," Newport said. "So it just shows the importance of having an exit plan."

PPIs should be taken at the lowest dose for the shortest time possible, she said.

SaferMedsNL is touring the province with an information booth on deprescribing. Newport said they are urging people to speak with their doctors about what medications they can ditch. 

Aside from heartburn and acid reflux pills, the group is speaking about opioids and sleeping pills.

"We're trying to have a conversation with people in their communities to raise awareness on the importance of being informed and empowered to ask your health-care provider if the medication that you are using, or that of a loved one, is still needed."

The group's booths have popped up in Corner Brook and Clarenville in the last few days. More information is available on its website.

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