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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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Heartburn and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Prescription Heartburn Treatments

  • H2 Blockers. Histamine-2 (H2) blockers such as Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac, and Axid work by reducing the production of stomach acid. The prescription forms of these medications (which usually contain higher doses than the over-the-counter versions) can generally relieve heartburn and treat GERD. They also may be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors. Depending on the source of your problem, your doctor can prescribe medications that block acid production more effectively than the H2 blockers. PPIs include Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix, and Nexium. Another PPI product combines Prilosec with sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid).
  • Promotility Agents. Promotility agents work by speeding up digestion, which prevents acid from staying in the stomach too long, and strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter, reducing reflux back up into the esophagus. Reglan is a promotility agent occasionally used to treat heartburn associated with GERD. The side effects of Reglan may include drowsiness, fatigue, diarrhea, restlessness, and movement problems. Another promotility agent, Propulsid, was removed from the market in 2000 because it caused serious heart arrythmias (abnormal heart beat) in some people.

Most patients are successfully treated with these medications. Only a few people need surgery to correct the disorder.

When Is Heartburn Surgery Necessary?

Surgery for GERD may become necessary:

  • When medical or drug treatment has failed to control symptoms
  • When the sphincter muscle is unable to work properly
  • When esophageal cancer develops from chronic GERD

To learn more about Heartburn and GERD, see WebMD's Heartburn Guide.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on August 01, 2014

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