Over-the-counter antacids containing aspirin may soothe your stomach but they can also cause internal bleeding, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns.
While such incidents are rare, they happen often enough that the FDA wants consumers to think twice before popping antacids that contain aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The agency issued its first warning in 2009 and recently found eight new cases of serious bleeding caused by aspirin-containing antacid products.
Some of the cases were serious enough that the patients required a blood transfusion.
“Take a close look at the Drug Facts label, and if the product has aspirin, consider choosing something else for your stomach symptoms,” says Karen Murry Mahoney, M.D., Deputy Director of the Division of Nonprescription Drug Products at FDA. “Unless people read the Drug Facts label when they’re looking for stomach symptom relief, they might not even think about the possibility that a stomach medicine could contain aspirin.”
Those most at risk include older people, those with a history of stomach ulcers or bleeding problems and those who take blood-thinners and steroids.
The risk also rises among those who are already taking medicines containing NSAIDs, iinclduing ibuprofen or naproxen and among heavy drinkers.
Warning signs of stomach or intestinal bleeding include feeling faint, vomiting blood, passing black or bloody stools, or having abdominal pain. These are signs that you should consult a health care provider right away.
There are many choices for treating heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion, and upset stomach. Read the Drug Facts label and look for products that contain an “antacid” or “acid reducer.”
For example, Mahoney says, there are numerous OTC medicines that contain only an antacid, such as calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, or another antacid. These can be used to treat heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion, and upset stomach. For frequent heartburn, there are acid reducers, such as proton pump inhibitors (esomeprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole), or H2 blockers (cimetidine, famotidine, ranitidine).