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Study: PCP and ER visits for GERD down since OTC PPIs switched


WASHINGTON - The availability of proton pump inhibitors in the self-care aisles may be responsible for a reduction in doctor visits and trips to the emergency room for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published Wednesday.

“This is an excellent example of the value of Rx-to-OTC switch, not just for consumers, but for the overall health care system as well,” added Barbara Kochanowski, VP scientific and  regulatory affairs at the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "Over-the-counter access to safe and effective medications like PPIs provides health benefits for people, but also cost benefits in terms of saving time and money by avoiding unnecessary doctor visits, prescription plans and costly co-pays.”

“The availability of effective OTC medications for common conditions may be advantageous for the U.S. healthcare system by reducing the number of nonessential physician visits, while creating a more rational allocation of health care resources to manage more serious conditions and other health care priorities,” stated study author Dong Chang of the Division of Respiratory and Critical Care Physiology and Medicine from the Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute, University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center.

PPIs reduce gastric acid production in the stomach and have been prescribed by doctors for nearly 30 years as a safe and effective medicine to treat GERD and acid indigestion, a common symptom of GERD. In 2004, the first low-dose PPI switched from prescription-only to OTC status for consumer use to relieve frequent heartburn, and other PPIs have followed.

During the decade prior to the 2004 switch, patient visits to primary care physicians for GERD saw a 2.8-fold increase. But since 2004, when OTC PPIs became available, consumer visits to primary care physicians have remained virtually flat, even though risk factors for GERD such as rising obesity rates, an aging population and heavy alcohol consumption rates, did not change during the same period.

CHPA provided an unrestricted grant to support this study.


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