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Yale J Biol Med. 1999 Mar-Jun;72(2-3):181-94.

pH, healing rate, and symptom relief in patients with GERD.

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Department of Medicine, McMaster University Medical Center, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Gastroesophageal reflux symptoms are common and occur in all of us from time to time. In others, reflux may be associated with ulcerative esophagitis. The symptoms may be aggravated by large meals, coffee, smoking and position. Physiological and pathological reflux can be separated by the frequency and duration of the exposure of the lower esophagus to acid. Pathological reflux results in symptoms and also esophagitis and ulceration in some patients. Although gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is considered to result from a disorder of motility in the esophagus, gastric acid and peptic activity are deemed pivotal to the initiation and continuation of the esophageal damage and the development of symptoms. Acid exposure in the esophagus is normally less than 4 percent of the 24 hours with a pH below 4. An increase over 4 percent of the time with a pH less than 4 is considered pathological. Hence, antisecretory drugs have become the principle approach to the treatment of reflux symptoms and esophagitis since they reduce the acidity, of gastric juice and the activity of pepsin. Importantly, they also reduce the volume of gastric juice available for reflux into the esophagus. There is a clear relationship between the degree and duration of acid suppression and the relief of heartburn and healing of esophagitis. Pharmacodynamic studies with different dose regimens of the H2-receptor antagonists and the proton pump inhibitors show a difference in the degree and duration of the antisecretory effect, and this correlates closely with the results of clinical trials with respect to the healing of esophagitis and the relief of symptoms. Proton pump inhibitors achieve healing rates by week four, which are not achieved by H2-receptor antagonists even after 12 weeks of treatment. The advantage of proton pump inhibitors over H2-receptor antagonists is due to the greater degree, longer duration of effect and more complete inhibition of acid secretion that maintains intragastric pH above 4 for a maximal duration. Although there is no significant difference between proton pump inhibitors with respect to healing of esophagitis, symptom relief occurs earlier with lansoprazole than omeprazole, and this is probably due to the greater oral bioavailability and faster onset of action of lansoprazole when compared to omeprazole.

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