The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a drug for children in a category that has been linked to serious long-term side effects, including bacterial infection, nutrient deficiency and cancer, is a poor decision.
The FDA approves Nexium for children ages 1 to 11.
Nexium, a proton-pump inhibitor, suppresses acid production in the stomach with the goal of healing erosions in the esophagus. Other proton-pump inhibitors include Prilosec and Prevacid.
Although the FDA recommends Nexium for short-term treatment (eight weeks), starting children on the drug, even at low potencies, should be cause for alarm. If doctors prescribe Nexium throughout a person’s childhood, or if use continues into adulthood, there could be serious consequences.
Drugs that inhibit natural acid production are associated with increased risk of hip fractures, likely because calcium is not sufficiently absorbed, according to a story from MSNBC. Impaired calcium absorption could be detrimental for children, who rely on the nutrient for healthy growth.
In addition, restrained acid production could increase the risk of intestinal infection and bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and small intestine. According to MSNBC, the overgrowth of bacteria in the stomach could lead to pneumonia, vitamin B12 deficiency and stomach cancer.
H2 blockers such as Zantac, Pepcid and Tagamet also suppress acid production. Some of these products, along with traditional antacids, can be purchased over the counter.
Antacids, such as Tums and Rolaids, can cause problems with protein digestion and vitamin B12 absorption. Long-term use can interfere with absorption of other nutrients, including iron and calcium.
Acid blockers and antacids simply mask the symptoms of gastrointestinal problems and provide temporary relief. Enzyme-based digestive supplements, on the other hand, help address the root cause of stomach problems, which is improper digestion.
Safe, effective digestive enzyme supplements work naturally with the body to relieve digestive problems. They appear to decrease distension of the stomach, which might help relieve symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to MSNBC.
Digestive enzymes can improve nutrient absorption while they help with indigestion, gas, bloating, reflux and other symptoms of improper digestion. For those with damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, licorice, marshmallow and aloe can help soothe and protect the gastrointestinal lining.