Evidence-based and unlicensed indications for proton pump inhibitors and patients' preferences for discontinuation: a pilot study in a sample of Italian community pharmacies

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2016 Apr;41(2):220-3. doi: 10.1111/jcpt.12371. Epub 2016 Mar 2.


What is known and objective: Despite the widespread use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), little is known about the appropriateness of treatment according to the indications reported by patients and their involvement in the process of treatment discontinuation. In patients who are unlikely to benefit, the medication should be stopped and dose tapering is recommended to reduce the risk of rebound symptoms. The aims of this pilot study were to evaluate the appropriateness of treatment according to the reported indications by PPI users, patients' preferences for drug withdrawal, and the modalities of previous attempts to discontinue the medications.

Methods: This observational study was conducted in nine community pharmacies. Each pharmacist was asked to interview a sample of patients with prescriptions for PPIs and to collect a minimum set of information about socio-demographic characteristics, drug indication, duration of drug treatment, number of drugs used for acid-related disorders, preference about drug withdrawal, previous attempts at drug discontinuation and the method of drug tapering when this was performed.

Results and discussion: The study included 260 patients, 126 (48·5%) females; 81 patients received more than one drug for acid-related problems and the second medication was more frequently prescribed by a general practitioner, community pharmacist or specialist. Unlicensed indication was reported by 125 patients, and 77 patients did not receive any information about the duration of treatment. Fifty-one patients were in favour of drug discontinuation. PPI withdrawal was attempted but was unsuccessful in 12 cases. Nine patients discussed the method of drug withdrawal with their physician, and abrupt discontinuation was the most frequent suggestion. Many patients were treated with PPIs for unlicensed indications such as gastroprotection because of the number of concomitant drugs used or unspecified gastroprotection. Recommendations about the main indications and the duration of treatment are essential to avoid unnecessary prescriptions and undefined prolongation of drug use. Correct information about the method of drug discontinuation is essential for success.

What is new and conclusion: Many patients using PPIs are treated for unlicensed indications such as non-specific gastroprotection. The use of more than one drug for acid-related disorders is frequent among PPI users although this is not supported by evidence. Patients should be given clear and appropriate information about the duration of treatment and method of drug discontinuation.

Keywords: community pharmacies; medication appropriateness; pharmacoepidemiology.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Utilization*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference*
  • Pharmacies
  • Pilot Projects
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Young Adult


  • Proton Pump Inhibitors