-- Relief from Heartburn Update --
Our summer 2003 newsletter included an article on Relief from Heartburn and Reflux . After it was published, Prilosec®, which was a prescription drug, became available over the counter in its most popular strength. This means that enrollees who suffer frequent heartburn have access to short term relief without the need to see their doctor for a prescription. Prilosec OTC is only for short-term heartburn relief; it should only be taken for a single 14-day course of treatment every four months. For those who suffer from frequent heartburn, patients are advised to see their doctor. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as weight loss and portion reduction, as well as a prescription medication.
Talk with your doctor if you have frequent heartburn (defined as symptoms two or more days per week) before you take any over-the-counter drug for relief. For additional information on your prescription drug benefits, contact your Plan (HMOs) or Express Scripts (Indemnity, PPO, PLUS and OME).
From the GIC Summer 2003 Newsletter
More than 60 million people over the age of 50 (and some pregnant women) experience Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) at least once a month. The most common symptom is heartburn, a burning feeling behind the breastbone. Unlike pain associated with heart disease, heartburn pain is not usually associated with exercise, and becomes more acute when you lie down and after eating. It is caused when the muscle connecting the esophagus with the stomach (lower esophageal sphincter - LES) is weak or relaxes inappropriately, allowing the stomach's contents to flow up into the esophagus. The stomach contents can cause the burning sensation called heartburn because stomach contents are acidic, and the lining of the esophagus is not protected from acid.
If you have been diagnosed with GERD, your doctor will suggest that you avoid the following, which weaken the LES: Chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee, alcoholic beverages, citrus fruits and juices, tomato products, pepper and smoking
Your doctor may also recommend losing weight, eating meals at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, reducing the size of portions at mealtime, and elevating the head of your bed on 6-inch blocks, or sleeping on a specially-designed wedge. Nonprescription antacids can provide temporary or partial relief.
For chronic reflux and heartburn, your doctor may prescribe medications. H2 blockers, which inhibit acid secretion in the stomach, relieve symptoms in up to 70% of patients with GERD. If H2 blockers are not effective, your doctor may prescribe proton-pump inhibitors, which decrease the acid in the stomach. As with all conditions, follow your doctor's advice and make the lifestyle changes he or she has recommended. Take your medication as directed. If you have followed these measures, but your heartburn returns, consult with your doctor.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.