Dr. Wolfe Releases Study Demonstrating Improper Use of Heartburn Medication

Wednesday, June 04, 2014 - Dr. Wolfe Releases Study Demonstrating Improper Use of Heartburn Medication
Most frequent heartburn sufferers do not closely follow the directions on over-the-counter medications, resulting in less-than optimal symptom relief. The study, led by Michael Wolfe, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine at The MetroHealth System, shows that the best heartburn relief is achieved by taking the medication before breakfast.

The study, to be published Wednesday in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, is the first to assess treatment patterns and symptom control for over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Results show that of the over-the-counter PPI users surveyed, 61 percent take the drugs without consideration of meal timing.

“There is a very small window of opportunity to take these medications to achieve the greatest degree of symptom relief,” said Wolfe. “Eating food activates the production of acid in the stomach, which is required for PPIs to then effectively block acid production. These widely used drugs were specifically designed to be taken just before the first meal of the day to work optimally.”

PPIs are the most effective class of drugs in providing symptom relief for frequent heartburn (also known as Gastroesphageal Reflux Disease, or GERD.) Direct costs of GERD amount to $10 billion per year, with lost work productivity estimated as high as $75 billion per year, according to the study.

“Package inserts need to more clearly emphasize the importance of daily, pre-breakfast PPI use to maximize the effectiveness of the drugs, and people need to talk to their doctor about the dosage that is right for them,” Wolfe added. “Simply taking the drug at the right time could vastly improve a person’s quality of life – while also decreasing overall costs.”

More information about the study will be available this afternoon at www.metrohealth.org/PPI.