Mechanism of action of PPI’s. Source: Wikipedia

Proton pump inhibitors act by irreversibly blocking the hydrogen/potassium adenosine triphosphatase enzyme system (the H+/K+ ATPase, or more commonly just gastric proton pump) of the gastric parietal cell. The proton pump is the terminal stage in gastric acid secretion, being directly responsible for secreting H+ ions into the gastric lumen, making it an ideal target for inhibiting acid secretion. (“Irreversibility” refers to the effect on a single copy of the enzyme; the effect on the overall human digestive system is reversible, as the enzymes are naturally destroyed and replaced with new copies.)

Targeting the terminal-step in acid production, as well as the irreversible nature of the inhibition, result in a class of drugs that are significantly more effective than H2 antagonists and reduce gastric acid secretion by up to 99%.

The lack of the acid in the stomach will aid in the healing of duodenal ulcers, and reduces the pain from indigestion and heartburn, which can be exacerbated by stomach acid. However, lack of stomach acid is also called hypochlorhydria, the lack of sufficient hydrochloric acid, or HCl. Hydrochloric acid is required for the digestion of proteins and for the absorption of nutrients, particularly of vitamin B12 and of calcium.

The proton pump inhibitors are given in an inactive form. The inactive form is neutrally charged (lipophilic) and readily crosses cell membranes into intracellular compartments (like the parietal cell canaliculus) that have acidic environments. In an acid environment, the inactive drug is protonated and rearranges into its active form. As described above, the active form will covalently and irreversibly bind to the gastric proton pump, deactivating it.

Some agents in this group include: Omeprazole (Losec, Prilosec, Zegerid, ocid); Lansoprazole (Prevacid, Zoton, Inhibitol); Esomeprazole (Nexium); Pantoprazole ( Protonix, Somac, Pantoloc, Pantozol, Zurcal, Pan); Rabeprazole ( Rabecid, Aciphex, Pariet, Rabeloc)