Got heartburn?

Have you ever wondered which OTC is best for occasional heartburn? There are so many products to choose from! If you only occasionally have acid reflux then Zantac (ranitidine) or Pepcid (famotidine) are probably the best choices for you since:

  1. They work quickly (within 30 minutes)
  2. They last for 12 hours
  3. They don’t have any long-term complications or side effects if used regularly

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On the other hand, if you choose one of the proton pump inhibitors (PPI) like Nexium (esomeprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole), or Prevacid (lansoprazole), these medications take four to seven days to be fully effective and they’re only intended for people who have heartburn every day.  Also, they can cause some pretty serious problems if used long-term:

  • Loss of bone density (weakening the bones)
  • Hypomagnesemia
  • Increased risk of C. Diff infection( a particularly terrible, dangerous diarrhea)

Oftentimes these medications get started to treat a temporary problem and then the prescription inadvertantly keeps getting renewed (even though it’s not truly needed). If you are taking a PPI it’s important for you to know that you need to taper off of it slowly when you decide to stop taking it. If you stop it cold turkey you’ll end up with rebound acid reflux, wrose than what you started with!

So where do Tums (calcium carbonate) and Maalox (aluminum, magnesium, and simethicone) factor in? Well, Tums is calcium and has the added benefit of supporting bone health, but its acid reducing potential is short-lived (think 30 minutes). As for Maalox, it’s great as a protective coating for the esophagus and stomach, but should only be used occasionally since it can cause serious electrolyte imbalances.

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If you have any questions about which heartburn relief medication would be best for you, or have any additional questions about your medications, schedule a time to speak with one of our knowledgeable pharmacists!

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If you found this helpful, you might want to check out:
Picking the Best OTC Headache Relief Medication is Such a Pain in the…

Kristen Engelen, PharmD
Kristen Engelen, PharmD, is the chief pharmacy officer of RxLive and a certified consultant pharmacist; she has over a decade of experience in retail pharmacy settings. Kristen became an RxLive co-founder because of her passion for geriatric pharmacy, with a focus on the intersection of pharmacy and aging.