Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Could Prevacid cause platelets to drop?

In February of 2005, I was diagnosed with GERD, which is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. I think it’s just a fancier term for acid reflux. My doctor put me on Prilosec OTC, but after a few months, I started taking Prevacid and continued to do so until now. He was a good doctor and ran periodic blood work on me. The testing became more routine - meaning every 3 months - after I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, about 2 years ago. One of the things he noticed was that my red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit and in particular, my platelet count, had all dropped below normal levels. My white cell count dropped too, but never below normal. I became anemic and was diagnosed with thrombocytopenia. All of my counts continued to drop and no one knew why. To give you an idea of platelets, the normal range falls between 150,000-450,000 / 10ˆ3/uL. Mine had dropped to 113,000. My doctor couldn’t pinpoint the problem and when he moved, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Fortunately, I found a new one, his replacement, and I not only like her very much, I appreciate the fact that she has been very diligent and concerned about my well being; because up until now, there had been no viable explanation for my blood problem. Believe me, I’ve been poked and prodded, including a CT scan of my brain, to no avail. No one could find any blood leakage. Why was I so anemic? Why were all my blood counts dropping? Bear in mind, I have no health insurance and all costs come out of pocket. The thoughts of more testing and the expenses involved were beginning to take their toll. It was all so perplexing. I was probably staring at a bone marrow biopsy, too, and that frightened me. My mind went to work. Why was my bone marrow not producing enough platelets? Think, Dave, think. I knew it wasn’t leukemia, but could I come up with a solution?

I’ve always been rather good at investigating things and I Googled just about everything I could to figure out the cause of this problem, but too many variables popped up. Besides, I’m not medically trained, by any means, other than playing doctor when I was a kid. Well, I’ll leave it at that. After I felt I had explored all avenues, I sat down to rethink my strategy. I asked the doctors if any of this could be related to diabetes. No, they responded. All along, I had requested copies of all blood work, so I had files dating from February, 2005, through the middle of August, 2008. I scrutinized all side effects of every prescription I was taking, including possible conflicts, but nothing stood out. Suddenly, a light bulb lit up in my head. I typed prevacid+low platelet count in Google for one simple reason: it was the only medication I had been taking all this time.

BINGO! It wasn’t the mother lode, but the answer may have been staring right at me. Here are some of the possible side effects, although rare, of taking Prevacid:

Was this it? Did I find something my doctors, including specialists, weren’t aware of? After lab work in August, I had a follow up visit with my doctor. I told her of my discovery. She had a PDA or Palm Pilot of some kind, looked it up and said, yes, you are right; there might be a correlation between taking Prevacid and low platelets. She instructed me to stop taking it and to return a month later for blood work. Why not? It’s worth a shot. After a month, guess what? My counts all came up! For instance, the platelet number shot up to 163,000 and that falls within the normal range. Am I suddenly cured? Was Prevacid the culprit all along? My doctor feels rather confident it is, but I was left with another problem. During that month, the GERD came back with a vengeance. She had advised me to take Zantac while off the Prevacid and while I took 300mg/day, the maximum amount; it did absolutely nothing for me. Subsequently, she prescribed Protonix. We’ll have to wait and see, since it is very similar and in the same class of drugs as Prevacid, if this affects my blood the same way. If it does, I don’t know what will be done about the GERD because chronic low blood/platelet counts and anemia are more of a serious health risk, but she has ordered a battery of tests to determine if I have underlying issues causing GERD, details of which I will not get into. Trust me; you do not want to know.

Please rest assured, the reason for taking my own path to find an answer was not to usurp the power or knowledge of a doctor, nor was it from a lack of faith. Quite the contrary. Why not join the fight? Besides, I don’t think a physician could possibly know everything about every malady, nor do I think they should spend every waking hour studying all medications and possible side effects. That’s too much to ask for. Doctors see hundreds of patients a week. To explore every complex issue with every patient is absurd. Of course, that is why they go to medical school, but we are all humans here and if I can research something, by golly, I will. Who cares where the answer comes from? Besides, it might have been solved down the line by a hematologist or some other specialist.

I am through taking Prevacid, no doubt about that. My doctor will continue to monitor my blood. We can’t be absolutely positive this is the answer to my problem, but it does seem to point in that direction. Certainly, I’m not advocating self diagnosis by any means and anything and everything you find must be discussed with your primary care physician. Clearly, the Internet has opened so many doors, but we must understand that there are plenty of crackpots out there and we must be able to ascertain the differences between truth and fiction, but I think being able to do online research today is an incredible asset. Who would have thought it possible 10 years ago? Happy birthday, Google. Thanks for your help. It’s not every day a patient gets to impress their doctor. Thanks for saving me a ton of money, too.


  1. I'm glad to hear it most likely isn't Aplastic Anemia, trust me you do not want to get that. I've talked to people who had platelet counts below 5,000 (and no I didn't leave out any zeros)! It's a very serious disease. Anyways good work on looking into it yourself. If it does turn out that you have Aplastic Anemia, which sounds doubtful at this point, you're always welcome to learn from the community we're getting together at

  2. Cameron, you don't know how much I appreciate your comment. I hope it's been the Prevacid all along, but it will take time and many more tests to determine if my find is correct.

    My brother-in-law is 3+ years (in remission) clear of acute myelogenous Leukemia (AML) and I know what he went through. A friend of mine has had problems with hep c and her counts dropped very low. My brother-in-law went to MD Anderson in Houston and received a bone marrow and stem cell transplant. My friend initially reacted to the Interferon, but changed hospitals and is now going to Moffitt in Tampa. They are treating her with a different type of Interferon and it seems to be working.

    Believe me, I've looked into aplastic anemia and I don't like what I see.

    Thank you for complimenting me on my work and for the comment, too. I will visit

  3. I am in remission with AML for 3 years. My platlets were 190,000 in July 2008. October I started bruising...platelets were 52,000...had a bone marrow biopsy done and no leukemia...still week later 39,000...two weeks later 34,000....three weeks later 31.000. Doctors are watching me..seems to be leveling;s the thing..I was placed on KEFLEX for 15 days and a couple of those days also had Naprosin for a nasty cut on my hand...TOLD the Urgent Care that I was in that I did your same research seems that Keflex can do the same damage....I am freaking out waiting for this to come up. Should have called my own docs even though they assured me I could take that med. So now..we wait. But I am pretty convinced it was the Keflex. My hemoglobin is 12 and my wbc are normal..rbc close to normal. KEep praying with me please.

  4. My brother-in-law underwent a bone marrow and stem cell transplant at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for AML in April of 2005, so he's been in remission for a little over three and a half years now. I think he gets checked every six months now and so far, no problems. In any event, I have a very good idea of what you went through because it hit so close to home for me.

    What was interesting in my case was that none of my doctors and specialists could determine what the problem was. I have been taking Protonix after being taken off the Prevacid and my platelets have gone back down. I have blood work every three months because of the diabetes and the problem with my blood. My platelets were 129. My RBC was low, at 3.84. So was my Hemoglobin (13) and hematocrit at 36.8. Fortunately, my WBC went nicely into the normal range, 6.46, but leukemia was never an issue for me.

    My problem is the medication I take for GERD. At least, that is what my doctor now thinks, thanks to my research. Protonix is in the same class as Prevacid and if my counts are still down in January, when I'm tested again, I will be taken off the drug. There is no substitute and nothing else curbs my acid reflux. Unfortunately for me, the medications are (or have been) a permanent prescription and my doctor says it is more dangerous to continue with low counts than it is to suffer from GERD. She wants to send me to another specialist to run a tube down my throat and see if there is an underlying reason why I have the acid problem, but unfortunately, I have no health insurance and money is rather tight for me right now.

    Fortunately for you, the Keflex was only temporary and after you stopped using it, your counts should have started to go back up. That's probably why your doctors said it was OK to use the medication, because it was only temporary. I certainly understand your concern, though. My sister and brother-in-law get very nervous whenever anything is out of kilter.

    I wish you the best of health and - yes - I will keep you in my prayers. Thank you, too, for leaving a comment and telling me about what you've been going through.

  5. My 4 year old son has the exact same thing you have. I went to my library and looked in the Physicians Desk Reference for prevacid. The low rbc and the low platelets along with lots of other side effects were all in there. I have since taken him off it and have taken him to a natural dr that has given him natural med to heal his stomach and wont cause his body to have such awful side effects.

  6. I'm glad you were driven to research your son's problem, like I was. I hope for the best for your son. Thank you for commenting.