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Choosing an Over-the-Counter Heartburn Medicine


By Staff Writer

Heartburn MedicineYour choice basically depends on whether you want to treat heartburn or prevent it. All over-the-counter heartburn remedies decrease the acid content of the stomach, but they do so in different ways¾treatment of symptoms, prevention and a combination of the two.

Treatment



Antacids work to neutralize stomach acid and can be used to treat heartburn that has already started. Examples include Tums® or Titralac™. Antacid begin to take effect within five to 15 minutes and can last provide relief for up to three hours.

Prevention



To help stop heartburn from happening, choose from the class of medicines known as H2-blockers. Examples include ranitidine (brand name Zantac®), famotidine (Pepcid® AC) and cimetidine (Tagamet® HB 200®). You can take these medicines at bedtime or 30 minutes before a meal. H2-blockers can prevent heartburn for four to eight hours following a dose.

Combination



The proton pump inhibitor (PPI) omeprazole (Prilosec OTC®) is available over-the-counter. This type of drug can be used when H2-blockers do not work. If you are taking other medicines, read product labels and talk to your doctor or pharmacist to prevent a drug interaction. For example, some antibiotics are not effective if they are taken with antacids. See a doctor if your heartburn doesn't go away within two weeks, gets worse, or is accompanied by other symptoms. 

Sources:Feldman: Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. W. B. Saunders Company, 1998.Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 2000.Micromedex® Healthcare Series. Thomson Micromedex, 2006.Pepcid Complete Product Information, Johnson & Johnson-Merck. http://www.pepcidac.com. Last accessed 11/15/2006.Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach. Appleton & Lange, 1999.The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition. Merck & Co., 1997. This reply prepared 6/25/2001.This information updated 1/25/2007.

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