OTC treatments for reflux fail to match relief of prescriptions

05/11/05

CHICAGO, IL (May 16, 2005) – New research presented today at Digestive Disease Week® 2005 (DDW) suggests that over-the-counter treatments for gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) symptoms may not be as effective as treatment options prescribed by a physician. DDW is the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

"People often opt to take over-the-counter remedies for quick relief of acid reflux symptoms, rather than visiting a doctor for an appropriate diagnosis," said John Johanson, M.D., of the University of Illinois. "Hopefully these findings will encourage more people to seek proper diagnosis and therapy from their doctors."

How Effective Are OTC Medications and Prescribed Medication in Controlling Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)? Results from a Multinational Survey (Abstract T1673)

People seeking relief from symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) often turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines before they are formally diagnosed. Symptoms of GERD include persistent and frequent heartburn and acid indigestion. In this study, researchers at Guy's King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine investigated how effective these medicines were in improving symptoms.

Results of the study showed symptoms persisted for most people suffering from GERD, but more patients experienced relief when using prescription medication than OTC options. Patients using prescribed proton pump inhibitors (PPI), a family of medications that block the production of stomach acid, or other prescription drugs were more likely to improve their symptoms than those undiagnosed GERD sufferers using OTC medicines.

In face-to-face interviews, researchers asked 1,908 participants about their disease, lifestyle and drug usage. Participants from the United States and Europe were either diagnosed with GERD (984 patients) or undiagnosed (924 patients). Approximately 65 percent of undiagnosed sufferers taking OTC medicines reported improvement in symptoms, while 80 percent of patients receiving prescription drugs and nearly 90 percent of patients receiving PPIs reported symptom improvement. However, the symptoms were not totally resolved. Of undiagnosed sufferers taking OTC medicines, 81 percent still suffered symptoms, while 68 percent taking prescription drugs continued to report symptoms.

"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," said Roger Jones, M.D., of Guy's King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine. "Patients suffering from GERD seeking more complete symptom relief should consult their physicians who can make a definite diagnosis of the disease and suggest appropriate treatment."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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