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How do medications treat GERD and heartburn?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Most people treat the first symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn with over-the-counter medications, such as antacids and drugs that reduce or prevent the production of stomach acid. If your doctor decides that you need stronger medications, you might be prescribed more powerful versions of the types of drugs that reduce or prevent the production of stomach acid. These include H2 receptor antagonists that decrease acid production (common brand names include Zantac, Tagamet and Pepcid) and proton pump inhibitors that block acid production (common brand names include Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid). Over-the-counter foaming agents that contain antacids (a common brand name is Gaviscon) can be used to coat the stomach. There are also prescription medications called prokinetic agents that help the stomach empty itself faster and strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the muscle that acts like a valve between your esophagus and your stomach. However, significant side effects have been reported with prokinetic agents.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.