First approved by the FDA for medical use in the USA in 2000, pantoprazole is part of a class of drugs known as PPIs, or proton pump inhibitors.
These medications are used to reduce the amount of stomach acid and gastric juices created by the digestive system, typically in response to an overabundance of those juices that cause issues with acid reflux.
This buildup can occur for a number of reasons, but each one is equally distracting and painful if a solution or proper symptom treatment isn’t found.
Without effective treatment, the symptoms of this excess acid can range from uncomfortable to painful, and even severely medically harmful.
The causes of acid overproduction can vary, but a handful of common conditions generally call for a pantoprazole prescription.
Because the medication is considered very safe and isn’t plagued by a great deal of interactions or abuse potential, doctors are likely to feel comfortable trying it out on patients for whom over-the-counter antacids haven’t helped in any meaningful way.
What Is Pantoprazole Used For?
GER/GERD: Short for gastroesophageal reflux (short term) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (long term), these acronyms refer to an issue with excess stomach acid flowing back up the esophagus.
Although lined with a protective mucus, the esophagus isn’t meant to house stomach acid, so continual presence of gastric juices will erode this mucus, eventually burning through to the esophageal lining itself.
When this happens consistently, a chemical burn happens internally, called an ulcer.
Unless the environment around these ulcers is controlled by mitigating the acid, it can’t properly heal, which leads to pain, discomfort, and in severe cases, even an inability to consume certain food and drinks.
Patients with untreated GER or GERD may feel like they are “swallowing knives” or feel as if they have a painful lump in their throat that just won’t go away.
This sensation is caused by the continual process of excess acid coming into contact with existing acid-created injuries in the throat, which is why it’s so important to take that excess acid out of the equation for healing.
Generalized Acid Reflux: Pantoprazole (brand name: Protonix) is used to help mitigate the symptoms of an ongoing acid reflux flare-up, but is not intended to be used for immediate relief, or, in most cases, longer than 8 weeks at a time.
This is because it works over a period of time to reduce the amount of acid produced by cells in the stomach called proton pumps – hence the proton pump inhibitor designation – so that gastric juice volume reduces gradually.
By contrast, antacids like calcium carbonate (found in Tums tablets) or bismuth subsalicylate (found in Pepto-Bismol liquid) are intended to work to immediately negate the excess acid currently in the esophagus, rather than more permanent / ongoing acid reduction.
Acid reflux may come with a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including heartburn after eating, trouble swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and a persistent cough that feels like it burns the throat.
These uncomfortable symptoms are all signs that the body is attempting to reduce the effects of, or even expel, unwanted excess acid.
Ulcers: Caused by the erosion of the mucus protecting the digestive tract, ulcers form for a variety of reasons.
Peptic ulcers, for example, form in the lower part of the stomach and the upper intestines due to either infection by a bacteria called helicobacter pylori or overuse of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin.
Gastric ulcers form in the center and upper portions of the stomach for many of the same reasons, and all types of ulcers are aggravated by exposure to certain food and drink triggers, such as spicy foods or citrus.
Pantoprazole sodium is used to treat existing ulcers by eliminating the excess acid exposure that could be slowing down healing, as well as protectively and proactively in patients that are likely to develop ulcers.
Only a doctor can diagnose ulcers, so it’s important to be honest and upfront about your symptoms, what you’ve been eating, and for how long you’ve been experiencing discomfort.
Depending on the severity, your doctor may also want to perform additional tests to determine how widespread your ulcer or ulcers truly are.
Thankfully, provided that pantoprazole and lifestyle changes are able to get your acid back down, these ulcers will heal and you’ll be able enjoy spicy or acidic food and drinks once again.
Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome: First identified in 1955 and named after the medical scientists that jointly discovered it, Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome is a very rare disorder, found in as few as one person out of a million people.
Those afflicted with ZES experience a chronic, lifelong issue: their bodies grow tumors called gastrinomas in their digestive tract.
These tumors secrete a substance called gastrin, which is normally produced in small amounts whenever a meal is eaten.
Gastrin signals the stomach to produce gastric acid in anticipation of food to be broken down, starting the digestive process.
Unfortunately, ZES sufferers get a large dose of gastrin from their tumors constantly, with or without food present.
The result is that the stomach makes too much acid, which flows upwards and burns the esophagus as acid reflux.
Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome has the distinction of being FDA-approved for longer pantoprazole courses, extending beyond the usual 8-week recommended course window.
This is largely due to the fact that the syndrome is not easily cured: the only known permanent treatment involves removal of all gastrinoma ulcers, many of which are extremely small and hard to locate. Even after their removal, there’s no guarantee that the tumors won’t grow back, repeating the cycle.
How Is Pantoprazole Taken?
The method of prescription depends largely on the lifestyle and ability of the patient.
For most individuals, pantoprazole will be taken orally as pills, capsules, or tablets. In these cases, it’s usually recommended that the course be taken prior to meals and with water, as taking the medication after eating can slow its efficacy.
Pantoprazole is also available as an intravenous infusion, often used for elderly or hospitalized patients that are unable or unwilling to take oral medications.
It may also be prescribed for these same patients as oral granules, which are usually mixed into a beverage or an easy-to-eat food like applesauce for ingestion.
Because the success of the medication is in its effects over time, rather than a per-dose basis, consistency is important.
Patients should always follow their doctor’s recommended scheduled course, including continuing to take the medication even after their symptoms are managed.
They should also strive to take the medication at the same time each day whenever possible, as this allows the body to adjust and adapt to the presence of the proton pump inhibitor and process food and drink accordingly.
Unless otherwise directed by a doctor, pantoprazole should never be divided, cut, or crushed. Many pantoprazole prescriptions rely on an extended release preparation, and changing the composition of the pill could deliver too much medication into the bloodstream at once.
Additionally, if a dose is skipped, do not “double up” on the next dose; rather, just resume taking pantoprazole normally at your next dosing time.
What Is Pantoprazole For?
While it isn’t an immediate relief type of medication, it can definitely improve the life and well-being of patients that start on it. When it’s prescribed, pantoprazole has one job: to help eliminate the excess stomach acid causing pain in the stomach, chest, and throat due to acid reflux.
For most patients, getting a proverbial handle on their proton pump acid production helps settle their stomachs, minimize the effects of GER/GERD, and give them back their quality of life.
When prescribed at the right dose for the right period of time, pantoprazole helps those taking it enjoy food and drink again, and eliminates the persistent pain and discomfort caused by ulcers and acid damage to the stomach and esophagus.
In some cases, pantoprazole may be prescribed in conjunction with other medications to cure a more serious overarching issue, such as antibiotics for an H. pylori infection in the stomach or intestines.
If you’re prescribed pantoprazole, speak candidly with your doctor to learn more about your medication and how it will affect your condition, including common misconceptions about digestive disorders, appropriate dosage information, lifestyle changes, and other ways to manage your health effectively while taking your prescription.
If you are suffering from acid reflux or one of its associated disorders and syndromes, talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for pantoprazole, which is well-tolerated and offers minimal side effects with impressive efficacy.
Once you’ve been screened thoroughly to avoid any drug interactions, your local pharmacist will be able to fill your prescription, quickly and easily.
References, Studies and Sources:
1) “Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome.” NIH (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases / niddk.nih.gov), (no publish date), https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/zollinger-ellison-syndrome. Accessed May 31, 2020.
2) Calabrese, Carlo; Fabbri, Anna; Di Febo, Giulio. “Long-term management of GERD in the elderly with pantoprazole.” NCBI (US National Library of Medicine | National Institutes of Health / ncbi.nlm.nih.gov), March 2007, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684091/. Accessed May 31, 2020.
3) “Pantoprazole.” NHS.uk, (no publish date), https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/pantoprazole. Accessed May 31, 2020.
4) (Abstract). Access Data.fda.gov (Distributed by Pfizer), March 12, 2012, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/020987s045lbl.pdf. Accessed May 31, 2020.
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