Skip navigation


Halting Heartburn

June 10, 2014

Related MedlinePlus Pages



For patients with frequent heartburn, the introduction of proton pump inhibitor drugs signaled a major step forward in symptom relief. In fact, when taken as instructed, before the first meal of the day, popular medications such as Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid have proven very effective at preventing the onset of acid reflux.

But a new study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, warns that many times PPIs are not taken properly, depriving patients of the very relief they're after. The conclusion stems from a 2011 survey of more than 600 heartburn patients who discussed their PPI habits.

Of the roughly 1/3 who were prescribed their meds by a gastroenterologist, more than 70% took the drug correctly. But among the third who got PPIs from a primary care physician, less than half took them as instructed. And that figure fell below 40% among those who purchased their drugs over-the-counter.

The finding suggests that patients need to be better educated about how PPIs work, and how best to take them.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV, with health information for healthier living.