In 2012, Nexium, the simple acid reflux drug, was the top-selling brand of prescription medication in the U.S. The sales for this drug totalled a whopping $6 billion. That’s a lot of money to treat heartburn. However, there are a number of other brands that beat the Nexium price and still offer relief from heartburn. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about heartburn medications.
Upside to Heartburn Medications
According to an analysis conducted by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, you have a number of options when it comes to treating heartburn. Just because doctors tend to automatically prescribe proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as Aciphex, Prilosec, Prilosec OTC, Prevacid, Prevacid 24hr, Zegerid and Zegerid OTC it doesn’t mean that’s what you have to accept. As much as 70% of the people who suffer from acid reflux do not need such a strong medication. These PPIs are designed to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is when heart burn is chronic, occurring at least twice per week for a prolonged period of time (weeks or months). Most people do not have this frequency of occurrence, which means that over-the-counter (OTC) medications will often work just fine. Something as simple as Tums or Rolaids might do the job. You might also be able to use an OTC H2 blocker medication, such as Peptid AC, Axid, Tagamet, or Zantac.
Downside and Risks
Be sure you understand the risks of taking PPIs if you plan to continue to take them. Long-term use of these drugs may reduce the absorption of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients which include vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium and as well as having an increased risk to pneumonia and Clostridium difficile infection, which causes severe diarrhea. If you do decide you want to stop taking PPIs, or even H2 blockers, then you need to wean off of them gradually or you risk experiencing rebound symptoms caused by an overproduction of stomach acid. Always talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your medication.
Be Sure You Even Have Heartburn
If you are experiencing heartburn frequently, then you should see your doctor, even if OTC heartburn medications work for you. Sometimes what can feel like heartburn is a sign of a more serious problem, such as gallstones, heart disease, an ulcer, or even esophageal cancer. Ruling out other potential health issues is important. Once you are certain that what you have is heartburn, you can make other changes to minimize the symptoms. These include:
- Losing weight
- Not eating 2-3 hours before you go to bed
- Determining the culprit foods that cause heartburn and eliminating them from your diet
- Raising the head of your bed by 6-8 inches
Most of the time, heartburn is no more than a nuisance, but when it occurs frequently, it can have a negative impact on your quality of life. Just be sure you are on the right type of heartburn medication and not taking something stronger than you need. Talk it over with your doctor to determine the best acid reflux medication to take for your heartburn.