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Prescription Reflux Drugs Beat OTC Remedies

Study finds proton pump inhibitor drugs work best

MONDAY, May 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are less effective than prescription drugs in fighting chronic acid reflux, according to a new international study.

British researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 1,900 American and European individuals with symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which includes persistent and frequent acid indigestion and heartburn. About half of those interviewed had already been diagnosed with the condition after seeing their doctor, while the other half had not.

Reporting Monday at the annual Digestive Disease Week conference in Chicago, the researchers found that people with GERD who took prescription drugs gained more relief than those who used OTC products.

About 65 percent of undiagnosed chronic reflux sufferers reported an improvement in symptoms when taking OTC medicines, compared with 80 percent of diagnosed patents already using a prescription drug. Overall, almost 90 percent of those taking a prescription proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication -- drugs like Prilosec or Nexium -- reported symptom improvement. PPIs work by blocking the production of stomach acid.

Symptom improvement didn't mean complete elimination of reflux, however. Among those undiagnosed individuals taking OTC medications, 81 percent said they continued to experience some symptoms when taking the drugs, the researchers said. The same was true for 68 percent of patients taking prescription medications.

The study received funding from AstraZeneca, the maker of prescription Nexium.

"Our study indicates that proton pump inhibitors and other prescription medicines for GERD are more effective than over-the-counter remedies in relieving symptoms of the disease," lead researcher Dr. Roger Jones, of Guy's King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"Patients suffering from GERD seeking more complete symptom relief should consult their physician who can make a definite diagnosis of the disease and suggest appropriate treatment," he added.

More information

The National Jewish Medical and Research Center has more about GERD.

SOURCE: Digestive Disease Week, news release, May 16, 2005
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