Omeprazole is a drug known as a protein pump inhibitor (PPI), which reduces the flow of acid in the stomach. This drug is available in several dosages and is often prescribed for ulcer treatment, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other conditions in which the stomach produces too much acid. Omeprazole comes in several forms, including tablets, capsules and as an intravenous solution. In the United States, omeprazole is commonly sold over the counter as a 20mg delayed-release tablet or in combination with sodium bicarbonate as a 20mg capsule. Stronger-dose omeprazole capsules are available by prescription.
Omeprazole is marketed to GERD sufferers as a two-week course of 20mg tablets available over the counter. Patients should not take more than one tablet a day or continue the regime for more than two weeks. Doctors may prescribe a stronger dose for those who do not respond to the initial treatment and may recommend continuing the treatment past two weeks. For patients who cannot swallow easily, prescription omeprazole capsules containing granules can be opened and mixed with 1 Tablespoon of applesauce. This drug should be taken on an empty stomach with a glass of water at least an hour before eating, usually first thing in the morning before breakfast.
Omeprazole treatment for peptic ulcer disease varies slightly. There are several regimes for ulcers involving PPIs, sometimes known as triple or quadruple therapies. One common regime consists of 40mg omeprazole capsules, amoxicillin and clarithromycin. The antibiotics kill the bacteria responsible for the ulcer, while omeprazole reduces the flow of acid to the site of the ulcer and helps it heal. This therapy generally lasts from 10 to 14 days and may also include bismuth subsalicylate.
Patients seeking relief from problems associated with excess stomach acid may consider taking omeprazole mixed with sodium bicarbonate. This combination is marketed in the U.S. as a heartburn treatment. The sodium bicarbonate will help reduce the pH balance of the stomach while the omeprazole takes effect. Patients with high blood pressure or a sensitivity to salt should use caution when taking this drug because of its sodium content. Never take a double dose of this drug in an attempt to get prescription strength, because this will release too much sodium bicarbonate into the stomach.
Patients taking omeprazole capsules may experience stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, nausea, vomiting, headache or fever. Serious reactions to omeprazole include rash, hives, itching, swelling and difficulty breathing, which may indicate an allergy to the drug. Consult a doctor if any of the serious reactions occur. Long-term use of omeprazole may raise the risk for certain kinds of fractures and can weaken the lining of the stomach.