Acid reflux medication can be thought of as including the following categories:
Simple antacids are useful if you have an attack of heartburn or chest pain. The medicine immediately neutralizes the stomach acid. It works immediately, but the effect also wears off quickly and if the attack is bad, people may need more medicine after only a few minutes
This class includes, amongst others:
Some preparations include combinations of these medicines. Many of the well known brands for indigestion such as Rennies, Tums Maalox, Mucogel etc are based on combinations of these ingredients.
Enhanced antacids with alginates
Alginates give extra benefits over and above simple antacids.
Alginates contain antacids together with an extra ingredient, the alginate itself. An alginate basically creates a sticky barrier layer, which sits on top of the stomach contents. As a reflux event occurs, stomach contents come back up towards the throat. The alginate barrier comes into contact with the sensitive lining of the oesophagus first. This sticks to the lining and gives a protection from the stomach contents, which follow afterwards. The benefits usually last for around half an hour.
Alginate medicines include Gaviscon and Gastrocote. These can be in liquid or tablet form both of which are effective.
All of these medicines can be bought over the counter at the chemist in the UK.
More powerful medicines can be obtained by prescription, although increasingly, low doses of H2 receptor antagonists (H2RA) and proton pump inhibitors (PPI) can be bought directly over the counter (OTC) as well. Indeed, some OTC medicines now contain combinations of H2RA or PPI together with alginates.
MAALOX, ALUDROX, MUCODYNE, MUCOGEL, Acid stomach, Antacid ingredients