Skip to main content

Heartburn Medication (Antacids vs H2 Blockers vs Proton Pump Inhibitors)

SEE HOW PEPCID® WORKS DIFFERENTLY

THERE ARE THREE TYPE OF HEARTBURN MEDICATIONS

  ANTACIDS HISTAMINE-2 BLOCKERS INCLUDING PEPCID® (H2B) PROTON PUMP INHIBITORS (PPI)
PURPOSE Relieves heartburn associated with acid indigestion and sour stomach Relieves and prevents heartburn associated with acid indigestion or sour stomach Treats frequent heartburn (2 or more days in a week)
HOW IT WORKS Neutralizes the existing stomach acid

Doesn't stop your stomach from making more acid

Lowers the amount of acid your stomach produces

Blocks the histamine receptors in your stomach that are responsible for triggering acid production

Works by shutting down pumps that release acid into your stomach
ONSET OF ACTION Starts working in seconds

Can last up to 3 hours

Starts to work in just 15 - 30 minutes

Controls acid all day or all night

Not intended for immediate relief

May take 1 - 4 days to become fully effective

Requires a daily dosing regimen

PREVENTION OF HEARTBURN Not indicated for the prevention of heartburn Can prevent heartburn when taken 10 - 15 minutes before eating or drinking heartburn-provoking foods or beverages Not indicated for the prevention of heartburn

SEE HOW PEPCID® WORKS DIFFERENTLY

THERE ARE THREE TYPE OF HEARTBURN MEDICATIONS

ANTACIDS
PURPOSE Relieves heartburn associated with acid indigestion and sour stomach
HOW IT WORKS Neutralizes the existing stomach acid

Doesn't stop your stomach from making more acid

ONSET OF ACTION Starts working in seconds

Can last up to 3 hours

PREVENTION OF HEARTBURN Not indicated for the prevention of heartburn
HISTAMINE-2 BLOCKERS INCLUDING PEPCID® (H2B)
PURPOSE Relieves and prevents heartburn associated with acid indigestion or sour stomach
HOW IT WORKS Lowers the amount of acid your stomach produces

Blocks the histamine receptors in your stomach that are responsible for triggering acid production

ONSET OF ACTION Starts to work in just 15 - 30 minutes

Controls acid all day or all night

PREVENTION OF HEARTBURN Can prevent heartburn when taken 10 - 15 minutes before eating or drinking heartburn-provoking foods or beverages
PROTON PUMP INHIBITORS (PPI)
PURPOSE Treats frequent heartburn (2 or more days in a week)
HOW IT WORKS Works by shutting down pumps that release acid into your stomach
ONSET OF ACTION Not intended for immediate relief

May take 1 - 4 days to become fully effective

Requires a daily dosing regimen

PREVENTION OF HEARTBURN Not indicated for the prevention of heartburn

If you suffer from heartburn, several different types of medications are available to treat your symptoms. Classes of medications most often used to treat this condition include antacids, histamine-2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors5. Each type of medication works differently to treat heartburn symptoms.

How Do Antacids Work?

Antacid medications work by neutralizing your stomach acid. When this stomach acid is no longer acidic, it does not irritate the esophagus. Antacids offer quick relief, as they begin working as soon as they come into contact with your stomach acid. However, the relief provided by the antacid is also temporary. Although they neutralize acid already present in the stomach, they do not slow or stop the production of additional stomach acid1.

Pepcid Complete® is currently the only over-the-counter medication available in Canada that contains an antacid along with an H2 blocker. This combination provides the fast heartburn relief associated with antacids, as well as the lasting heartburn relief associated with H2-blockers.

How Do Histamine-2 Blockers Work?

Histamine-2 receptors in the body trigger the production of acid in the body. Histamine-2 blockers, also known as "H2 blockers," work by blocking the Histamine-2 receptors that trigger acid production, thus reducing the total amount of stomach acid produced. When there is less acid in your stomach, you are less likely to experience the symptoms of heartburn.6

Histamine 2 blockers provide longer lasting relief from heartburn than antacids, reducing the production of stomach acid for up to 12 hours and may start to relieve your symptoms in just 15 to 30 minutes2. H2 blockers can also be used to prevent heartburn if taken 10-15 minutes before eating or drinking heartburn-provoking foods or beverages.

A common example of an H2 blocker is Maximum Strength Pepcid AC®.

How Do Proton Pump Inhibitors Work?

Proton pump inhibitors, which may also be called "PPIs," are also reduce the amount of acid found in your stomach. However, instead of acting on histamine 2 receptors, these medications shut down the pumps responsible for the production and secretion of acid into the stomach. Unlike antacids and H2 blockers, PPIs are not fast-acting. In fact, they can take one to four days to feel the full effects of a PPI. Once they do take effect, PPIs are long lasting, providing relief from heartburn for 24 hours. PPIs are intended to be used only by those experiencing frequent heartburn (i.e., heartburn 2 or more times per week). They have a strict dosing regimen and must be taken every day in order to be effective at treating frequent heartburn.

You should only take over-the-counter PPIs for 14 days at a time. After taking this medication for 14 days, you should wait four months before taking an over-the-counter PPI again7.

Choosing the Right Heartburn Medication

In order to choose the over-the-counter heartburn medication that is right for your needs, be sure to always read and follow the product labelling. Consider the type of heartburn you experience (occasional or frequent), as well as the warnings and precautions listed for each medication. It is also important to make sure that you check with your doctor if you are taking any other medications to avoid any drug interactions.

Antacids are appropriate to use for treatment of occasional heartburn brought on by eating certain foods or drinking certain beverages. While antacids can start working within a few seconds, they provide short-term heartburn relief (i.e., 1-3 hours) and you may need additional doses to get longer relief. If you wish to get both fast and lasting relief of occasional heartburn with just one dose, consider trying a combination medication that has both an antacid and an H2 blocker. If you’re interested in preventing heartburn, for example from a late night meal, try an H2 blocker – it’s up to 12-hour acid control through the night may help you to sleep better without interruptions from heartburn. If you experience heartburn 2 or more times a week, choosing an over-the-counter PPI medication may work best for you. If you aren't sure which medication is right for your heartburn symptoms or if you find that you need to take heartburn medication for more than 14 days to get relief, talk to your doctor for more information and guidance. In some cases, you may also need testing to determine the cause of your heartburn, especially if it is severe or chronic. Your doctor can tell you whether testing is recommended.

Sources

  1. https://www.pepcid.ca/why-pepcid
  2. https://www.pepcid.com/what-is-pepcid
  3. https://www.goodrx.com/blog/best-treatment-acid-reflux-antacids-h2-blockers-proton-pump-inhibitors/
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/symptoms-causes/syc-20373223
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373229
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/histamine-h2-antagonist-oral-route-injection-route-intravenous-route/description/drg-20068584
  7. https://www.medicinenet.com/proton-pump_inhibitors/article.htm