Prilosec, or omeprazole, is one of the more common medications used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This medication may also be used to treat duodenal ulcers, h.pylori infection (stomach infection) and frequent heartburn. Complications of using this medication arise through side effects and interactions with other medications and herbs.
Systemic Side Effects
An increased incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and cough has been experienced by those patients on Prilosec. Asthenia (loss of strength), dizziness and headaches are common nervous systems side effects in patients taking Prilosec. Although used for GERD, Prilosec may cause abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, nausea and vomiting. "Mosby's Nursing Drug Reference" states that patients who are prone to hypokalemia (low potassium levels) may find Prilosec further decreases their potassium levels. Should patients notice an increase in muscle cramps, especially cramps in their calf muscles, or heart palpitations, a low potassium level may be to blame. Patients should contact their physician should these events occur. Back pain may increase with Prilosec therapy. This side effect may be easily managed with over-the-counter medications, but patients should be cautioned to consult their physician as to the best pain reliever to use in conjunction with Prilosec. Another common side effect with Prilosec is rash, especially in those patients sensitive to dyes and perfumes.
Drug to Drug Complications
Patients with an allergy to penicillin or molds have experienced serious anaphylactic reactions while taking a regime of amoxicillin concurrently with Prilosec. This drug combination is best avoided. Any patient who begins to experience signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis should seek immediate medical treatment. Patients on antibiotics may develop mild to potentially life-threatening colitis. Any diarrhea lasting longer than 24 hours should be reported to a physician. Patients taking iron derivatives may find poor absorption of these medications as Prilosec’s action raises the pH of the stomach. Iron needs a more acidic environment for optimal assimilation by the body. Patients prescribed diazepam, phenytoin or warfarin may find that Prilosec inhibits the liver’s clearance of these drugs, leaving more of these drugs available for use in the body and bloodstream. Levels of these drugs should be more closely monitored in patients on Prilosec.
Drug to Herb Complications
Ginkgo biloba may cause Prilosec to be less effective or completely ineffective; therefore, they should not be used together. Prilosec has been shown to increase formation of toxic metabolites of Pennyroyal. This herb should not be used with Prilosec. Patients may find they are more sensitive to the sun if Prilosec is taken concurrently with St. John’s Wort. Patients should either avoid excessive exposure to sunlight or increase the SPF of their sunscreen and reapply it more often.