Over The Counter Drugs for Heartburn

The common OTC medications for heartburn can be grouped as follows:2–4


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Antacids help in the neutralization of the excess acid in the stomach and provide a fast but short-term relief from heartburn.

Some of the common antacids include the following:

  • Aluminum hydroxide

  • Magnesium carbonate

  • Calcium carbonate

  • Magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia)

  • Sodium bicarbonate
Contraindications: Allergy to the drug, Sodium bicarbonate is contraindicated in individuals with heart disorders and hypertension.
Side-Effects: Constipation, Stomach discomfort, Loose motion, May affect absorption of certain drugs.

Most of the OTC antacids contain a combination of above-mentioned drugs and are effective for casual heartburns. Some of the antacid combinations include digene, gelusil and milk of magnesia.

Bismuth Subsalicylate

It helps in relieving heartburn by balancing the way fluid moves through the bowels. It is also used as an antidiarrheal and antiemetic agent and is also known to kill germs in the stomach or bowel.
Contraindications: Allergy to the drug
Side-Effects: It can affect the functioning of the drugs such as blood thinning agents, drugs for gout, arthritis or diabetes. It can cause temporary darkening of the tongue and stools.


These agents reduce the amount of gastric acid being produced in the stomach. Although H2-blockers do not provide instant relief, they help in relieving the pain for a longer period of time.

Some of the common H2-blockers include the following:

Dosage: Cimetidine: 200-400mg once or twice–daily. Famotidine: 20 mg twice-daily/40 mg once at bedtime. Ranitidine: 150 mg twice-daily/300 mg once at bedtime.
The H2-blockers are advised for individuals in whom heartburn persists for a long time and are usually advised to be taken for about 4–8 weeks.
Contraindications: Allergy to the drug.
Side-Effects: Headache, Dizziness, Constipation, Diarrhea.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

These agents stop the production of gastric acid in the body to a certain extent and hence need about 1–4 days to relieve heartburn. This group of drug is helpful for the people who have frequent heartburn (at least 2 days in a week). The only one proton pump inhibitor, which is available as OTC medication is omeprazole (Omez).

Dosage: Omeprazole 20 mg once-daily for 4 weeks.
Contraindications: Allergy to the drug.

Side-Effects: Headache, Dizziness, Constipation, Diarrhea.

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Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last modified: May 31, 2012