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Digestive Health Watch

Digestive Health Watch

Published Online: Friday, May 15, 2009   [ Request Print ]

Patients Satisfied with OTC Heartburn Therapy
A study entitled “Benefits of Over-the- Counter Heartburn Medications to Consumers and the Health Care System” indicated 94% patient satisfaction with OTC heartburn medications. The findings also estimated that OTC heartburn therapies save patients an average total of $174 each in office visits and yearly medication costs.

The research conducted by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and The Nielsen Co also found that 61% of respondents surveyed treat heartburn without talking with their health care provider, and emphasized the importance of consumer education to safe and effective treatment. “As with any OTC medication, consumers should read the label and follow directions closely to understand what the medicine is used for, to ensure appropriate dosing, and to avoid dangerous drug interactions,” said Janet P. Engle, PharmD. “Should they have any questions, it is important that they talk to their pharmacist. Severe or ongoing symptoms should be reported to a healthcare provider.”


Lifestyle Changes Can Ease GERD During Pregnancy
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects 40% to 80% of pregnant women. “The good news is that while symptoms can be severe, this condition is rarely associated with serious pregnancy complications. Usually within a few days of delivery it goes away,” according to gastroenterologist Jacqueline Wolf, MD. Dr. Wolf recommends the following changes:

• Avoid triggers like garlic, onions, alcohol, mints, coffee, and other caffeine-containing foods
• Avoid fatty foods that delay stomach emptying
• Eat smaller, more frequent meals
• Do not eat within 3 to 4 hours of bedtime
• Elevate the head of the bed
• Bend at the knees instead of bending over


PPIs May Not Benefit All with Asthma
Patients with asthma should not use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to ease their breathing if they also do not have heartburn symptoms, according to a study reported in the April 9, 2009, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Many patients with asthma have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Some individuals, however, have silent GERD and do not exhibit any symptoms.

The study included 412 patients whose asthma was poorly controlled despite being treated with inhaled corticosteroids. The patients either had minimal GERD symptoms or no symptoms. They took 40 mg of esomeprazole or placebo twice daily. The findings showed no major difference between those who took esomeprazole and the placebo group with respect to asthma control, lung function, GERD symptoms, and quality of life. The researchers found the rate of asthma events was 2.3 per person-year for the placebo group and 2.5 events per person-year for the treatment group.


Wine May Reduce Odds of Barrett's Esophagus
The findings from 3 separate studies suggested that drinking wine in moderation may help protect against esophageal adenocarcinoma or a precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus.

The one study out of California looked at the connection between Barrett’s esophagus and alcohol consumption. The researchers assessed data from a larger trial that included detailed, self-reported information about alcohol consumption. The study involved 320 patients diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus between 2002 and 2005, 316 patients who had gastroesophageal reflux disease without Barrett’s esophagus, and 317 patients who did not have either condition.

“We found no relationship between overall alcohol consumption and Barrett’s esophagus, but the risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus was lower among wine drinkers,” said lead investigator Douglas A. Corley, MD. The study was published in the March 2009 issue of Gastroenterology.


Beads May Suppress Reflux

Magnetic beads may offer new hope for patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Several medical centers around the United States and in Europe are assessing a nonmedical alternative that would prevent reflux. The device is a flexible band made of magnetic beads called the LINX Reflux Management System. Patients have the device implanted during a 20- to 30-minute laparoscopic surgical procedure. The beads are made of permanent rare earth magnets encased in titanium. Individualized for each patient, the band “stretches” to allow food to pass, but prevents the reflux of acid.

FAST FACT: Acid reflux affects 1 of 14 individuals daily.

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