Overview of medical therapy for gastroesophageal disease
The last twenty years have seen an evolution of much improved strategies in the medical treatment of GERD. Current therapy is targeted at acid suppression, to deal with consequences of mucosal injury and afford resolution of symptoms. Given their modest efficacy, there is no longer much support for initial treatment with H2RAs. PPIs have been shown to provide the highest levels of symptom relief and esophageal healing, in addition to preventing relapse and complications. With this class of agents, the clinician is able to prescribe a drug that is as highly effective as surgery for the purpose intended, without worrying about long term sequelae of acid suppression. It appears that patients with extraesophageal GERD must be treated with higher doses of pharmacologic therapy, principally with the PPIs, for longer periods of time to achieve complete relief of symptoms when compared to patients with heartburn and erosive esophagitis. There is still no clear consensus as to whether aggressive acid suppression alters the natural history of Barrett's esophagus. Based on their initial success, it appears that the next generation of evolving medical therapies will continue to play an important role in the management of GERD. The outcome from medical therapy is the standard against which the results of the novel endoscopy anti-reflux treatments will be measured.