Pharmacists say check with us first about medication side effects

Worried about your heartburn medication, or any medication? Talk to your pharmacist or doctor first, says PEI Pharmacists Association

CBC Health report on popular heartburn meds has some Islanders concerned

Omeprazole (Losec) is one of six proton pump inhibitors available in Canada. (Sherry Yates Young/Shutterstock)

A recent report by CBC Health about the possible risk of kidney damage with popular heartburn drugs has some Islanders worried about what's in their medicine cabinet.

A study has found that the warning signs for kidney damage aren't always present and on average, people on the proton pump inhibitor heartburn medications (PPIs) overall had a 20 per cent increase in developing kidney disease compared to people taking H2 blocker medication like Zantac or Pepcid.

PPIs are among the most commonly prescribed medications in Canada, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The report has caused concern for some Islanders on the drugs, who have responded on the CBC's Facebook page.

The executive director of the PEI Pharmacists Association, Erin MacKenzie, says anyone worried should start by asking them.

Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the PEI Pharmacists Association, says pharmacists are ready to talk to you about worries over new or long-standing prescriptions. (Submitted)

"If a person is concerned at all about a medication that they are taking, whether it be newly-prescribed and they're about to start it, or they've been on it and they've heard things in the media or from other people who've been on the medication about secondary effects, the first thing they should do is definitely talk to their pharmacist about their concern," MacKenzie told Island Morning.

There are several factors to take into consideration when someone is taking any medication, said MacKenzie, and sometimes one type of drug isn't the right fit for certain people.

"One of the most important things that a pharmacist does when a prescription is being filled is they review that medication and assess the appropriateness for that individual," she said. "Things even such as your weight or other sensitivities that you have could make one particular medication less appropriate for you than it would be for somebody else."

Don't stop medication

She advises people not to act without checking with their doctor or pharmacist first.

"What we wouldn't recommend is stopping the medication on your own," said MacKenzie. "It should be something that is done in concert with your prescriber or speaking with your pharmacist."

The key, according to MacKenzie, is finding the right drug for each individual, and using it correctly.

Pharmacists check possible side effects and advise clients on best practises for taking medication, such as with meals or before sleeping. (CBC)

"Any medication that you do take comes with its risks and its benefits," she said. "Aspirin, for example has been on the market for years. We do know that Aspirin can cause some serious stomach bleeds in certain populations in particular.

"That doesn't mean that Aspirin must be removed from the Canadian market. What it does mean is certain populations, based on their individual characteristics, should avoid that medication. Other people, as long as it's taken as prescribed and recommended, and following such tips as eating first, you can prevent some of the side effects or adverse reactions while still getting the benefit from that medication."

In the end, MacKenzie said, a medication that is safe and effective for one person, may not be for another, and pharmacists and doctors have lots of ways to check and hopefully avoid any bad effects.

From the interview on Island Morning