Proton Pump Inhibitors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

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Proton Pump Inhibitors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
esomeprazoleNexium
lansoprazolePrevacid
omeprazoleLosec
pantoprazolePantoloc
rabeprazolePariet

These medicines are taken by mouth (as a pill or liquid) once or twice a day. Some of these drugs are given intravenously (IV) in the hospital.

How It Works

Proton pump inhibitors reduce the production of acid in the stomach. This leaves little acid in the stomach juice so that if stomach juice backs up into the esophagus, it is less irritating. This allows the esophagus to heal.

Why It Is Used

Proton pump inhibitors are usually used:

  • To prevent GERD symptoms.
  • To heal inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis).
  • To prevent esophagitis from coming back after the esophagus is healed (maintenance therapy) and to prevent complications of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

People with Barrett's esophagus are often treated with proton pump inhibitors.

How Well It Works

Proton pump inhibitors can heal the esophagus in about 8 out of 10 people who take them.1

Proton pump inhibitors also work to help symptoms of GERD. But the number of people who take PPIs and who have no GERD symptoms is usually less than 5 out of 10 people. That means that of the people taking PPIs, more than 5 out of 10 still have some GERD symptoms.

Proton pump inhibitors work best when they are taken 30 minutes before your first meal of the day. If taking one pill before your first meal does not completely relieve your symptoms, talk to your doctor about taking another pill before your evening meal.

Side Effects

These medicines are generally well tolerated by the people who take them. Headache and diarrhea are the most frequent side effects that may occur.

Proton pump inhibitors may have more serious side effects, too:

  • They may reduce the amount of calcium your body absorbs. This may be linked to an increased risk of broken bones.2
  • They may make it more likely that you will get certain infections.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

For a very small number of people who take proton pump inhibitors, the medicines do not work well. For these people, other treatments for GERD can be tried. Sometimes proton pump inhibitors do not work well because people do not know when to take them. Proton pump inhibitors work best when they are taken 30 minutes before your first meal of the day. If taking one pill before your first meal does not completely relieve your symptoms, talk to your doctor about taking another pill before your evening meal.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Moayyedi P, et al. (2007). Medical treatments in the short term management of reflux oesophagitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2).
  2. Yang YX, et al. (2006). Long-term proton pump inhibitor therapy and risk of hip fracture. JAMA, 296(24): 2947–2953.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised May 18, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.