There are a number of over the counter remedies that alleviate the minor symptoms of acid reflux, but for more chronic sufferers, a GP can prescribe three types of medication for acid reflux.
It is important to note, however, that although these medications may reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, they do not restore the function of the body’s natural barrier between the stomach and the oesophagus meaning non-acid reflux will continue.
Types of acid reflux medication
Antacids Antacids are drugs that neutralize stomach acid. They provide immediate, short term relief but are not generally effective in preventing chronic acid reflux. Common antacids include: Gaviscon®, Tums®, Alka-Seltzer®, and Rennie®.
H2 Blockers H2 (histamine) inhibitors act on the stomach’s acid producing cells. H2 blockers prevent histamine from stimulating the cells, reducing the amount of acid each cell produces. H2 blockers have limited effectiveness on acid reflux as they only work for 8-12 hours, so do not prevent acid production and reflux throughout the day. Common H2 blockers include: Tagamet®, Zantac®, Pepcid® and Axid®.
Proton Pump Inhibitors The most commonly prescribed medications for acid reflux are Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s) which work by blocking the site of acid production in the stomach cells, the proton pump. Proton Pump Inhibitors are more effective at suppressing acid secretion and work over a longer period than H2 blockers. Common PPI’s include: Nexium®, Zoton®, Losec® and Protium®. It is also important to note that each of these drugs requires lifetime therapy; symptoms will return shortly after a patient discontinues their use.
Recent press coverage has suggested that whilst PPIs may be effective, they are not as safe as originally assumed and that long-term use may be associated with a variety of potentially serious adverse effects. Read a review of PPIs.
Why isn’t my current reflux medication working?
There are a number of reasons why pharmaceutical treatments for reflux fail. Acid reflux (GORD) happens because the body’s natural barrier to reflux, the LOS, can’t remain closed to protect the oesophagus from the contents of the stomach. Pharmaceuticals, like PPI’s, aren’t made to fix this barrier, they only change the make up of the contents of the stomach. So while pharmaceuticals may change the acid in the stomach, they do not stop reflux.
If you’re interested in a more permanent solution to acid reflux, you may wish to consider one of the surgical options that are available.