The Problem with Over-the-Counter Acid Reflux Medicationsby Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional
The treatment of acid reflux can be complicated and frustrating for many patients. When treatments based on lifestyle and dietary changes fail many patients require medications to deal with their disease. Until recently most of these treatments required a trip to see a physician and a prescription.
Medications like Zantac, Prilosec, and Prevacid have already been added to the OTC market. The FDA has also recently approved Axid and Zegrid for over the counter preparations. While there are definitely benefits to having these medicines over the counter there can also be issues for many patients.
The first problem can be related to insurance coverage for your medications. There are many patients who found themselves forced to pay more for prescriptions once they went over the counter because their insurance no longer covered the medications. If you find this to be the case for you it can help to file an appeal with your insurer or discuss alternatives with your physician. Many medicines end up with generic counterparts shortly after entering the OTC market which can help when dealing with cost.
The second problem lies in self medicating acid reflux. Bypassing the doctor for something like mild heartburn might be ok in the short term but serious issues with acid reflux should be treated by your physician. There are complications from improperly treated acid reflux and self medicating might miss properly diagnosing diseases like peptic ulcer disease, gallbladder disease, Barrett's Esophagitis and esophageal cancer. If you have severe symptoms or they persist after treatment then contact your physician. It is always wise to inform your physician of any use of OTC medications.
Heart disease and heart attacks also exhibit with chest pain and sometimes GI symptoms like nausea and vomiting. If your pain is new, severe and has not been addressed by a physician please do not self medicate Make sure your doctor has ruled out any heart related cause for your chest pain.
Medication interactions are the third problem with self medicating. Should you choose to use an OTC acid reflux medication be sure and let your physician and pharmacist know. They can help you to determine if there will be any interactions with your current medicines. Acid reflux medicines can keep others from working effectively and vice versa so make sure you are aware of the timing required in taking OTC medicines with any current prescriptions. OTC medicines can be a helpful addition to treating your acid reflux. Just be sure to use them responsibly.