Antacid sales top $10 billion annually

November 10, 2008

Information on OTC indigestion remedies that pharmacists can use to brief patients

Key Points

Even when the economy is in better shape, acid indigestion and heartburn plague about a third of the U.S. population. About 100 million Americans experience heartburn every month; about 15 million battle it at least once a day.

Acid indigestion involves an excess of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Its symptoms can include discomfort or a burning sensation in the upper portion of the stomach, nausea, abdominal bloating, or belching. Frequent indigestion can lead to irritation of the duodenum or to an irritation of the lining of the stomach, both of which can play a role in the development of peptic ulcer disease, which can be life-threatening.

Heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the esophagus, just below the breastbone, caused by stomach (gastric) acid flowing back into the esophagus. The pain often rises in the chest and may radiate to the neck or throat. Heartburn may be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) - injury to the esophagus that develops from chronic exposure of the esophagus to acid coming up from the stomach.

With more than $10 billion spent worldwide each year on antacids, pharmacists can expect to field any number of patient questions and concerns. Here are some cautions to keep in mind:

DANA K. CASSELL is a freelance writer living in San Diego.