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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.


From The Health Science Institute

If you had a friend who developed a dependency on prescription painkillers or amphetamines, you might not even know it. Chances are, they’d be inclined to keep it a secret.

But if the drug were a heartburn medication, there would be no shame. In fact, just the opposite. Here’s how a 2002 Boston Globe article put it. “Prilosec is so good, and patients so attached to it, that doctors jokingly call it ‘purple crack.’”

Turns out, that little joke is no laughing matter.

Ten years ago, patients seemed to get hooked on rapid heartburn relief. But in 2012, we know there’s more to it than just relief.

The dependency is real. And it can be very dangerous.

Last year, Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen petitioned the FDA. Dr. Wolfe wants proton pump inhibitor drugs to carry a black box warning about dependency risk. PPI drugs include Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, etc.

But this risk was no surprise to HSI members.

In an e-mail I sent years ago, Dr. Spreen offered a very clear PPI warning. He explained that stomach acid isn’t the problem. You NEED that acid to digest food. Heartburn occurs when acid enters the esophagus — a spot it shouldn’t reach.

That’s where the drugs come in. But relief has a price.

Dr. Spreen: “If you kill off the acid, the body saves the energy required to protect the esophagus. That weakens the GE sphincter. And that allows remaining acid to slip past and irritate the esophagus.

“So look what’s happening. The short term ‘fix’ assures the problem will continue (and even worsen).

“Is that not the most beautiful trick? The ‘cure’ assures its own increasing necessity. It’s positively brilliant. And diabolical.”

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