Ask anyone suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and he or she will tell you how medications like Zantac helps to make it more bearable. However, it begs the question: is Zantac safe to take over a long period of time? Keep reading below to find out.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 Blockers are medications that are both approved for treating chronic heartburn or GERD. Both of these medications help to suppress gastric acid secretion in the stomach1. However, there are key differences between the two.
According to Very Well, PPIs shut down the proton pumps in the stomach, while H2 Blockers block the histamine receptors in acid-producing cells in the stomach.
Another difference lies in their onset. PPIs take longer to take effect. However, they work over a longer period of time. In contrast, H2 Blockers take effect within an hour, but they work over a shorter period of time.
Unlike antacids, PPIs or H2 Blockers are taken as a measure to treat frequent heartburn or GERD, not just when symptoms arise.
The key difference is that antacids neutralize the acid in your stomach, while acid reducers lessen the acid produced.
In this sense, antacids provide fast, short-term relief, while acid reducers take longer to work. However, acid reducers also provide more long-term relief for those with chronic heartburn or GERD.
Ranitidine— the active ingredient in Zantac— is a common medication used to treat GERD and other conditions that cause heartburn. It’s also used to treat and prevent ulcers in the stomach and intestines as well as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
This medication is among the most widely used H2 Blockers. However, is Zantac safe if taken over a long period of time?
Overall, yes. Ranitidine or Zantac is safe.
There have been several studies on the drug’s safety profile, both for short-term and long-term use.
In their review, Brogden and colleagues observed that daily use of this medication is successful in treating peptic ulceration. Furthermore, they also pointed out that ranitidine helped control symptoms of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome over longer periods without causing problematic side effects.
Another study by J.G Mills and colleagues collected data from 189 controlled clinical trials. Altogether, it observed data wherein 26,000 patients received daily doses of ranitidine for four weeks.
The study confirmed that this drug has an excellent safety profile.
Compared to H2 Blockers, long-term use of PPIs may be associated with more adverse effects. So, if you’re looking for the safest acid reflux medication for daily use, check with your doctor to see if Zantac is a good option.
A main concern with prolonged use of acid reducers is whether or not they’re linked to deficiencies in vitamin B12.
Over the years, there have been several studies exploring this correlation. A study by Ruscin and colleagues A study by Ruscin and colleagues observed that H2 Blockers and PPIs could block the absorption of vitamin B12. In the long run (four years or more), they suggested that this could lead to a deficiency in this vitamin.
One of the largest studies by Lam and colleagues also explored the correlation between vitamin B12 deficiencies and long-term use of acid reducers.
The researchers compared 25,956 patients who had vitamin B12 deficiencies between January 1997 and June 2011 with 184,199 patients without deficiencies.
The results concluded that there is an association between the use of PPIs and H2 Blockers (when used for 2 years or more) with a vitamin B12 deficiency.
With that said, vitamin B12 deficiencies are reversible. For those taking Zantac over an extended period, it’s important to frequently check vitamin B12 levels and consider supplementation.
Overall, if you’re concerned about which is the safest acid reflux medication, H2 Blockers like ranitidine could be a good option for less severe symptoms. Be sure to consult with your doctor about this before starting or switching medications.
There have been many studies on the association between acid reducers and pneumonia. However, as pointed out by Eom and colleagues, findings have been inconsistent.
In their systematic review, Eom and colleagues suggest that there is a possible association between an increased risk of pneumonia and H2 blockers as well as PPIs.
Furthermore, Herzig and colleagues investigated the incidence of pneumonia among patients hospitalized at Beth Israel Deaconess. They found that 52% of the patients with pneumonia were prescribed acid reducers. Of these, 83% received PPIs, while only 23% received H2 Blockers.
With this in mind, the risk for developing pneumonia is low with H2 Blocker usage. In addition to this, it’s important to recognize that this study only pertains to hospital-acquired pneumonia and doesn’t indicate whether this poses a threat to out-patients.
So, is Zantac safe? Overall, it’s a relatively safe drug, even for long-term use. However, there is still some more research that needs to be done on its safety profile for prolonged use.
Like most drugs, you may have side effects such as headaches, drowsiness, or constipation with Zantac.
If you have allergies, don’t forget to check the inactive ingredients. Not sure what that is? Learn more on understanding labels.
In regards to the risk for vitamin B12 deficiencies or pneumonia, know that this isn’t very high. Generally, if this medication is prescribed to you, your doctor has assessed that its benefits far outweigh its risks.