by Faith Goan, The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy
Curist delivers FDA-approved medicines to your door at half the price of traditional brands. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy during this time.
What Does Omeprazole Treat?
Omeprazole is available either as an over-the-counter medicine, or as a prescription. Though it’s the same medicine, usage as an OTC is different than as a prescription:
- Non-prescription omeprazole is used either alone or in combination with other medications to treat frequent heartburn, that is heartburn that occurs at least 2 or more days a week in adults. Heartburn can be described as a burning pain sensation or discomfort in your chest caused by digestive acid moving from your stomach to your esophagus.
- Prescription omeprazole, recommended by a doctor, can be used to treat GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and should only be used for this condition if it is recommended by a doctor.
How Does Omeprazole Work?
Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), which means that it blocks the pumps in your stomach from producing acid. As a result, the amount of acid in your stomach is reduced and this prevents heartburn symptoms. Omeprazole does take 1 to 4 days of daily use for the full effect to start
How Do I Take Omeprazole Over The Counter?
As an over-the-counter medicine, omeprazole should be taken once a day (lasts 24 hours) for a max of 14 days, and up to only 3 times per year (every 4 months). It will take 1 to 4 days to feel full benefits from the medication. Remember to take each omeprazole pill with a full glass of water before eating. It’s best to take in the morning before eating your first meal of the day. Remember, omeprazole is not for immediate relief of heartburn symptoms. If you feel that you symptoms persist, consult with your doctor for further treatment options.
What If I Have Difficulty Swallowing and Want To Take Omeprazole?
If you have difficulty swallowing, the delayed-release omeprazole capsules can be opened and the granules can be sprinkled and mixed into applesauce. Please remember to NOT check or crush the granules. In addition, rate immediately after mixing -- do NOT store the applesauce mixture for future usage.
- Do NOT chew or crush the granules.
- Do NOT store the applesauce mixture for future usage.
Curist Heartburn Relief (omeprazole) is available as a delayed-release capsule here.
What Should I Do If I Forget a Dose of Omeprazole?
Take your missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is too close to the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Never double up on your dose to make up for the missed one.
What Side Effects Does Omeprazole OTC Have?
Omeprazole can cause side effects. If any symptoms persist or are severe, reach out to your doctor:
- Abdominal pain
- Flatulence (gas)
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing (reach out to your doctor ASAP)
- rash/hives/itching (allergic reaction)
People taking proton pump inhibitors may be more prone to fracture their hips, wrists, or spine than others not taking these medications. Please consult with a doctor if you have osteoporosis before taking omeprazole.
Will Omeprazole OTC Work the Same as Prescription-Strength Omeprazole?
Both over-the-counter omeprazole and prescription omeprazole have the same active ingredient and work the same way. However, prescription omeprazole is used to treat diseases that require consultation with a doctor. The prescription dosage may also be used for a longer period of time than when taken as an OTC. Remember, omeprazole OTC is primarily used only to treat symptoms of frequent heartburn whereas prescription OTC can be used for other diagnoses, like GERD.
Who Should NOT Take Omeprazole?
OTC Omeprazole should not be used if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Trouble or pain when swallowing food
- Vomiting with blood
- Bloody or black stools
- Heartburn with lightheadedness, dizziness, or sweating
- Chest pain, or shoulder pain with shortness of breath, or pain spreading to arms, neck, or shoulders
Why Cannot I Take Omeprazole For Longer?
One course of treatment of omeprazole OTC is to take daily for 14 days. This can be repeated up to 3 times per year (i.e. every 4 months). So what’s the harm in taking omeprazole for longer?
Among other things, long-term use of omeprazole can cause "rebound acid hypersecretion"- this means that once the drug is no longer used, the stomach can generate an excess of acid. The excess stomach acid may cause people to take more omeprazole, thus creating a cycle of long term dependency which is not healthy. It is therefore recommended to use the lowest effective dose of omeprazole for the least amount of time possible.
Does Omeprazole Interact with Food or Other Medicines?
When taking omeprazole and other medications, it is important to inform your health care provider that you are taking omeprazole to determine if any interactions may occur.
Among other things, omeprazole may interact with:
- Warfarin (blood thinner)
- Antifungal medications
- Digoxin (heart medicine)
- Diazepam (anxiety medication)
Is There A Difference Between Omeprazole Tablets vs Capsules?
Omeprazole over-the-counter comes in multiple forms, including tablets and capsules. Both the tablet and capsule have the same strength medicine, so they do not have any different therapeutic benefit.
For people who have difficulty swallowing, there is a benefit to the capsules because you can open the capsules and mix the granules with applesauce to take instead of swallowing.
So, in the end, it’s your preference!