There are several categories of acid reflux medicine that are extremely effective. These medications work by decreasing the amount of acid in the stomach, making it less likely for acid to reflex up the esophagus and cause symptoms such as chest pain, heart burn, indigestion, and nausea.
The three most common types are antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors. Antacids are over the counter medications and are things that are common, such as Tums, Maalox, and Pepto-Bismol. These work by a simple chemical reaction of acid neutralization. When the acid combines with the basic components of the antacids, the acid is neutralized.
These medications are cheap but their effectiveness is limited. The H2 blockers include medications like ranitidine and cimetidine, which are now generic and cost $4 at any pharmacy. These drugs block the H2 receptor in the stomach, which in turn decreases stimulation of receptors that lead to acid production in the stomach. Commonly used in hospitals for inpatients to decrease their acid production, the H2 blockers are used frequently, but their effectiveness is moderate, despite their widespread usage. It is best to take these at night.
The third common type of acid reflux medicine are the proton pump inhibitors. These medications work by blocking the H-K ATPase pump in the stomach, thus directly shutting off the actual site of acid production into the stomach. Proton pump inhibitors are extremely effective and have the highest rate of success. Such drugs include omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), and lansoprazole (PrevAcid). The effectiveness of these drugs come at a price, literally. These are the most expensive drugs on the market and some require a prescription.
Other drug categories include prokinetics, which speed up gastric emptying and in turn flushes down acid, sucralfate, a coating agent, and alginic acid, another coating agent. These drugs, however, are not used as often. If acid reflux medicine fails to treat acid reflex, a patient may elect to have a Nissen fundoplication performed on himself/herself. This produce can be done laprascopically (minimal incisions, using cameras and trocars to perform surgery) to strengthen the sphincter that is responsible for letting the acid travel up the esophagus.