Bay Area Medical Information
Reflux and Ulcer Medicine
Over-the-Counter
Many OTC medications are available that will help with mild acid indigestion or acid reflux, but treating these symptoms for prolonged periods of time without a health care provider's supervision can be dangerous.
  • Antacids Gaviscon, Tums, Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Pepto-Bismol are some of the antacids sold over-the-counter and are helpful in neutralizing stomach acid which often will relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, and some cases of stomach upset. Some antacids also contain simethicone, an ingredient that helps eliminate excess gas. Tums (calcium carbonate) is also a source of calcium.
    • Precautions: It's important that you read the label and take only as directed. If you are using the tablets, chew them well before swallowing for faster relief. Some antacids contain ingredients that can cause diarrhea, such as magnesium, or constipation, such as aluminum or calcium carbonate. Anatacids can significantly reduce the absorption of other medications. Patients with impaired renal (kidney) function should check with their health care professional before using antacids.

  • H2 blockers Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, Zantac 75, and Axid AR are all sold both in both prescription strength and in lower doses over-the counter (OTC). H2 blockers work by reducing production of stomach acid, and are used for relief of heartburn, acid indigestion, sour stomach, and other conditions, such as stomach ulcers. A product that contains an antacid plus famotidine (Pepcid Complete) is also available over-the-counter. These agents relieve heartburn within an hour and provide a longer duration of action (about 6 to 10 hours) than antacids. They are best taken 15 to 60 minutes before the offending food is eaten.
    • Precautions: Treating reflux symptoms for prolonged periods of time without a health care provider's supervision is ill advised as use of this medicine could be covering up a more serious underlying condition such as Barrett's esophagitis or even early cancer.

  • Proton pump inhibitor Prilosec OTC (omeprazole magnesium) is available in both prescription strength and in lower dose over-the counter strength as . Prilosec should be taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before breakfast. This product is intended for patients with frequent heartburn (2 or more days a week) or heartburn that is more severe. Several other proton pump inhibitors are available by prescription.
    • Precautions: Prolonged use of this OTC product without physician supervision or evaluation is not recommended. The reason for this is because use of this medicine could be covering up a more serious underlying condition such as Barrett's esophagitis or even early cancer.

-References

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Written by N Thompson, MSN, ARNP and reviewed by M Thompson, MD. Last updated October 2006

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