Study Links OTC Heartburn Medications to Significant Decreases in the Need for Doctor Visits

Nonprescription PPIs Good for Patients, but Also Good for Doctors,
Emergency Rooms, and Health Systems

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nonprescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for frequent
heartburn called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are associated with a
“profound and sustained impact on outpatient health care utilization in
the United States,” according to a new study published in the Journal of
Clinical Pharmacology. A key finding from the study showed that previous
rates of patient visits to emergency rooms, hospital clinics and
office-based clinics for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) were
significantly reduced across the board after OTC PPIs were introduced.
What’s more, those rates have remained stable ever since. See the full
journal article at

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 (heartburn), a common
symptom of GERD. In 2004, the first low-dose PPI “switched” from
prescription (Rx) to OTC status for consumer use to relieve frequent
heartburn. Other PPIs have followed. During the decade prior to the 2004
switch, patient visits to primary care physicians (PCPs) for GERD saw a
2.8-fold increase. But since 2004, when OTC PPIs became available,
consumer visits to primary care physicians (PCPs) 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.

“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,” according to study author Dong Chang, MD, 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.

“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,” says
Barbara Kochanowski, PhD, Vice President, Scientific & Regulatory
Affairs at the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA).
“Over-the-counter access to safe and effective medications like PPIs
provides health benefits for people,” says Dr. Kochanowski, “but also
cost benefits in terms of saving time and money by avoiding unnecessary
doctor visits, prescription plans and costly co-pays.” CHPA provided an
unrestricted grant to support this study.

Rx-to-OTC switch is a data-driven, scientifically rigorous, and highly
regulated process that allows consumers to have OTC access to a growing
range of medicines. For a medicine to be granted OTC status, it must
have a wide safety margin and be effective, and must bear understandable
labeling to ensure proper use. More than 700 OTC products are on the
market today that were previously available only by prescription.
Previous research indicates 94 percent patient satisfaction with OTC
heartburn medications and estimates that OTC therapy saves patients an
average total of $174 per person in office visits and medication costs

Chang, D. W., Grotts, J., Tseng, C.-h. and Brass, E. P. (2016), Time
Trends in Physician Visits for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Before
and After the Rx-to-OTC Switch of Proton Pump Inhibitors. The Journal of
Clinical Pharmacology. doi:10.1002/jcph.825

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is the
135-year-old national trade association representing the leading
manufacturers and marketers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and
dietary supplements. Every dollar spent by consumers on OTC medicines
saves the U.S. healthcare system $6-$7, contributing a total of $102
billion in savings each year. CHPA is committed to empowering consumer
self-care by preserving and expanding choice and availability of
consumer healthcare products.


Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA)
Mike Tringale,