Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a class of very effective and generally safe medicines used to treat heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and gastric ulcers.

But not everyone who experiences heartburn needs one. Several of the PPIs have been widely advertised to consumers and heavily promoted to physicians, and this has led to an overuse of the drugs in the treatment of garden-variety heartburn. PPIs are among the highest-selling classes of drugs in the U.S., with $9.5 billion in sales last year, and one of them, Nexium, was the top-selling of all drugs, earning nearly $6 billion in 2012, according to IMS Health, which tracks drug sales and marketing.

If you suffer from occasional heartburn and have not been diagnosed with GERD, nonprescription antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Tums, or acid-reducing drugs known as H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid), and ranitidine (Zantac) will very likely provide relief. All of those products are available without a prescription as low-cost generics.

Talk with your doctor about the role that dietary and lifestyle changes can play in alleviating heartburn, too, such as eating smaller meals and not lying down for at least three hours after eating, losing weight if you need to, and avoiding alcohol. If, however, you experience heartburn twice a week or more for weeks or months on end, have frequent regurgitation of food into your throat or mouth (with or without heartburn), or if your heartburn is not relieved by the drugs mentioned above, you may have GERD and may need a PPI. GERD is a condition that makes you prone to acid reflux and, over time, can cause damage to your esophagus.

The seven available PPI medicines are roughly equal in effectiveness and safety but differ in cost. Three- omeprazole (Prilosec, Prilosec OTC), lansoprazole (Prevacid, Prevacid 24HR), and omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid, Zegerid OTC)- are available as both prescription and nonprescription drugs.

Four-lansoprazole, omeprazole, omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate, and pantoprazole (Protonix)-are available as both brand-name drugs and generics that contain the same active ingredient but cost significantly less.

Taking the evidence for effectiveness, safety, cost, and other factors into account, if you need a PPI, we have chosen the following as Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs:

  • Generic omeprazole OTC
  • Generic lansoprazole OTC

Both of these drugs are available without a prescription. You could save $200 a month or more by choosing one of these medicines over more expensive prescription PPIs. If you have health insurance, find out if your plan will help pay for generic omeprazole OTC or generic lansoprazole OTC. If not, talk with your doctor about taking the PPI with the lowest out-of-pocket cost for you. If you have esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), you might want to consider esomeprazole (Nexium), pantoprazole (Protonix and generic), or rabeprazole (AcipHex). Some research suggests those drugs could provide better healing from esophagitis.

Safety note: Several studies have now linked PPIs to a higher risk of pneumonia and infection with a bacterium called Clostridium difficile, and other studies have found that long-term use of PPIs may be associated with an increased risk of fractures. Talk with your doctor about those risks, especially if you must take a PPI over a long period of time. People who are 65 and older and those with chronic medical conditions should be vaccinated against pneumonia and get a flu shot every year. And we emphasize this recommendation for people in those categories who are also taking a PPI.

In addition, anyone taking clopidogrel (Plavix and generic), a blood thinner used to prevent clots after heart attacks and stent placement, should be especially cautious with PPIs, particularly omeprazole and esomeprazole because they can reduce clopidogrel's effectiveness, which could increase the risk of another heart attack. Our medical advisers recommend that people taking clopidogrel should not take PPIs unless other treatments have not been adequate.

This report was updated in July 2013.

Welcome

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a class of drugs used to treat heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and gastric ulcers.

Heartburn and GERD are quite common. Heartburn is the main symptom of GERD but does not always signal it (see section 2 for a more detailed explanation). Between a quarter and a third of adults in the U.S. will have GERD symptoms at some point. It is most common among people ages 50 and older but can strike at any age. Pregnant women are also highly prone to GERD.

This evaluation of PPIs is part of a Consumer Reports project to help guide you to medicines that are most effective and safe, and give you the best value for your health-care dollar. To learn more about the project and the other classes of drugs we examine, go to www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org.

Six PPIs and one combination drug are currently available. They are listed below.

Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant) was approved by the FDA in January 2009 (The brand name was changed from Kapidex to Dexilant in 2010 because the previous name was sometimes confused with other medications that had similar names). Because few studies have been done using Dexilant, less is known about its effectiveness. In addition, its safety profile is not fully established yet. For those reasons, we recommend sticking with the other PPIs, especially our Best Buy picks, until more is known about this drug.

Generic Name Brand Available as a Prescription Generic Drug? Available as a Nonprescription Drug?
Esomeprazole Nexium No No
Dexlansoprazole Dexilant No No
Lansoprazole Prevacid, Prevacid 24HR (a nonprescription version) Yes Yes
Omeprazole Prilosec, Prilosec OTC Yes Yes
Omeprazole/ Sodium Bicarbonate Zegerid, Zegerid OTC Yes Yes (brand name only)
Pantoprazole Protonix Yes No
Rabeprazole AcipHex No No

Four PPIs-lansoprazole, omeprazole (Prilosec), omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid), and pantoprazole (Protonix)-are available as generic prescription drugs. Three of the PPIs are available over-the-counter without a prescription-lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR and generics), omeprazole (Prilosec OTC and generics), and omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid OTC). The cost for those nonprescription medications is significantly lower than the prescription versions, if you are paying out-of-pocket. None of the available studies on Zegerid met the criteria for inclusion in the scientific analysis that forms the basis of this Best Buy Drugs report.

Other prescription and nonprescription medicines are available to treat heartburn and acid reflux. Among them are the over-the-counter antacids Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Tums, all of which are available as generics. These medicines work within minutes to relieve heartburn and "acid indigestion." But their effect lasts only a few hours.

Another class of drugs, called H2 blockers, is also available over-the-counter to treat mild, occasional heartburn and excess stomach acidity. The nonprescription versions of drugs in this class include cimetidine (Tagamet OTC), famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR), and ranitidine (Zantac 75, Zantac 150), all of which are available as low-cost generics. H2 blockers take longer to work than antacids-30 minutes to an hour-but they provide heartburn relief for up to 12 hours.

Stronger doses of H2 blockers are also available by prescription, and all are also available as lower-cost generics.

Studies have found that PPIs reduce stomach acid more over time than antacids or H2 blockers. But PPIs are not intended for the immediate relief of heartburn. Antacids and H2 blockers actually do a better job at that. The main advantage of treatment with PPIs, in addition to reducing stomach acid for longer periods of time, is that they treat people diagnosed with GERD or ulcers.

This report evaluates only PPIs, which have become the most widely prescribed medicines in the U.S. to treat heartburn and GERD when symptoms persist, are chronic or severe, or are unrelieved by antacids or H2 blockers.

This report was published in July 2013.

What Are PPIs and Who Needs Them?

PPIs work by blocking an enzyme that is necessary for making acid in the stomach. When this enzyme is blocked, acid production decreases.

PPIs are very effective and relatively safe. But not everyone needs one. Several of them have been widely advertised to the public and promoted to physicians- particularly Nexium (the "purple pill"), which earned nearly $6 billion in sales in 2012, making it the top seller among all medications, according to IMS Health. Many physicians think the heavy promotion has led to an overuse of PPIs in the treatment of occasional heartburn. Figures from IMS Health show the number of prescriptions written in the U.S. for PPIs in 2012 topped 127 million, making them among the most commonly prescribed class of drugs.

Before you start taking a PPI, we advise talking with your doctor about other medicines that may be useful if you have only occasional heartburn (once a week or less) and have not been diagnosed with GERD.

Also, talk with your doctor about the role that dietary and lifestyle changes can play in alleviating heartburn, such as eating smaller meals and not lying down for at least three hours after eating, losing weight if you need to, and avoiding alcohol.

Almost everyone has heartburn once in a while-for example, after a heavy or spicy meal, or after drinking alcohol. Heartburn is an uncomfortable sensation that usually starts just below your breastbone and can radiate into your throat. You may also get a sour or bitter taste in your mouth or throat.

Occasional heartburn is not worrisome or dangerous, and can be largely relieved by taking over-the-counter antacids or H2 blockers. Even if you have a period of time-say a couple of weeks-in which you get heartburn fairly regularly, you may not need anything stronger than those drugs.

However, if you have heartburn at least twice a week for weeks or months on end, have frequent regurgitation of food into your throat or mouth (with or without heartburn), or if your heartburn is not relieved by antacids or H2 blockers, you may have GERD.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is not just the result of frequent heartburn or excessive eating, as commonly thought. It's caused by a physical condition that many people appear prone to, when the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach doesn't work properly. The muscle usually opens when food is passing through on its way to the stomach. In people with GERD, however, the muscle seems to open at other times. Or it stays open too long after food has passed through. When either happens, acid from the stomach can flow back up into the esophagus. This is called acid reflux.

There are no definitive studies of how many Americans actually have GERD. By some estimates, more than 60 million experience heartburn at least once a month and 15 million suffer from it daily. So it is possible that tens of millions of people may have the condition. The bottom line is that if you have heartburn twice a week or more you could meet the criteria for GERD and should see a doctor if your symptoms are not controlled by lifestyle changes, over-the-counter antacids, or H2 blockers.

In contrast to occasional heartburn, GERD can be dangerous. If it isn't treated, over time, the acid reflux can inflame or erode the lining of the esophagus, a condition called esophagitis. You may sense it as a chronic soreness in your lower throat and/or chest. Most cases of esophagitis are relatively mild. But if left untreated, it can result in bleeding, scarring, and a narrowing of the esophagus. This can make eating and swallowing foods painful and difficult. People who have uncontrolled GERD for years also have a higher risk of cancer of the esophagus, though this cancer is rare.

Between a third and half of the people with GERD will have some damage to their esophagus, although it's usually mild. But doctors can't tell who is going to develop that damage and who will not, or how severe it might be. As a result, if you are diagnosed with GERD, your doctor will almost certainly prescribe a PPI. All of these drugs greatly reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces, making the refluxing stomach contents less erosive. That allows the esophagus to heal.

If you are diagnosed with GERD, your doctor may also recommend that you undergo a procedure called an upper endoscopy. The procedure uses a lighted flexible tube, put down the throat, to look inside the esophagus. Your doctor will then look for damage to your esophagus. He or she may also take a sample of tissue to test for cancer.

PPIs don't cure GERD; they treat the symptoms. Not a lot is known about how people with GERD do over the long-term. But it appears that some have GERD for life while for most, the condition occurs only sometimes or resolves on its own.

If you are diagnosed with GERD and are given a prescription for a PPI, talk with your doctor about how long you should take the medicine. After a few months, you may be able to stop taking it without any problems.

If your symptoms return, you can often start taking the medicine again. Many doctors and pharmacists think that PPIs are overused to treat people who have heartburn but do not have signs of esophagitis.

A small number of people who have severe symptoms and/or are prone to severe damage to their esophagus may need to take a PPI every day for years. People diagnosed with GERD should have dietary counseling to determine which foods may worsen their symptoms. Quitting smoking is also recommended. And if you are overweight, research has shown that losing weight can reduce heartburn and GERD.

PPIs are also used to treat peptic ulcers, erosions in the lining of the stomach or upper intestinal tract. These ulcers are caused primarily by a bacterial infection with an organism called Helicobacter pylori.

PPI drug treatment alone does not eliminate the infection; you need antibiotics for that. The benefit of using PPIs is that they enable the ulcers to heal by reducing stomach acid. That treatment has virtually eliminated the need for ulcer surgery except for those in whom bleeding is unstoppable.

PPIs are also now commonly prescribed to help prevent or treat erosions in the stomach lining in people who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil and generics) or naproxen (Aleve and generics), or corticosteroids such as prednisone to treat arthritis or pain. Studies have found that they help by reducing stomach acid and allowing the ulcers to heal. People who take NSAIDs regularly for pain, arthritis, or other reasons should talk with their doctor about taking a PPI as well to protect their stomach.

In this report, we only evaluate PPIs for treating heartburn and GERD.

Choosing a PPI-Our Best Buy Picks

All PPIs are highly effective at reducing stomach acid, relieving heartburn, and thereby helping to heal damage to the esophagus caused by GERD. The overall evidence from research that compared the drugs with each other shows them to be very similar, with no PPI any better than any other. Some studies have indicated that esomeprazole (Nexium) may have a slight advantage, but the drug was administered at a higher dose in these trials (we discuss this in more detail on section 3).

As you can see in Table 1, below, if you take a PPI you have a 65 to 77 percent chance of complete symptom relief after four weeks. You have a 77 to 90 percent chance that any damage that occurred to your esophagus will be healed after eight weeks. And the majority of people who are advised to remain on a PPI to prevent relapses don't usually experience one. Some research indicates pantoprazole and rabeprazole provide better symptom relief and healing of esophagitis at eight weeks, and that esomeprazole provides better esophagus healing (inflammation has gone away) over 6 months.

The figures in Table 1, below, are compiled from many studies, so they do not reflect a direct comparison of the PPI drugs as if the drugs were evaluated against each other in a single study. The figures are presented here to illustrate the general effectiveness of the class of PPIs. The differences between the drugs should not be taken as an indication that one drug is stronger or weaker, or better or worse, than any other. That is one reason we give you the ranges of response as well as the averages.

Table 1. General Effectiveness of PPIs1
Generic Name And Dose Per Day Brand Name Symptom Relief at 4 Weeks, Average Percentage of Patients (Range) Esophageal Healing at 8 Weeks, Average Percentage of Patients (Range) Relapse Prevention, Percentage of Patients
Dexlansoprazole 30 mg Dexilant NA2 NA2 75
Dexlansoprazole 60 mg Dexilant NA2 86 (82-89) 83
Esomeprazole 20 mg Nexium NA2 87 (84-91) 87
Esomeprazole 40 mg Nexium 73 (65-82) 90 (88-92) 93
Lansoprazole 30 mg Prevacid 70 (61-80) 86 (83-90) 91
Omeprazole 20 mg Prilosec 65 (54-76) 85 (81-88) 86-92
Pantoprazole 20 mg Protonix 77 (70-84) 77 (65-88) 55-86
Pantoprazole 40 mg Protonix 72 (62-83) 89 (86-92) 78
Rabeprazole 20 mg AcipHex 69 (52-86) 82 (76-89) 89
  1. Effectiveness data presented for PPI dosage strengths that have been studied to date. Data are from individual studies included in DERP's analysis of the PPIs. Ranges given reflect findings from multiple studies.
  2. NA=Data not available.

Doctors have no way of gauging how a person will respond to a PPI or if they will respond to one better than another. The figures we present indicate that most people can expect to get relief from taking any PPI. But it's not uncommon for some people to respond better to one PPI than another. As a result, your doctor may recommend that you try another PPI if the one you try initially does not appear to work after about six weeks. Or your doctor may prescribe a higher dose of the PPI before switching you to another one.

PPIs-Side Effects and Safety

PPI drugs can cause both minor and serious side effects, but studies have not found any significant differences between the PPIs in the side effects they cause or their safety profiles. Minor side effects include headache and diarrhea. About one to three percent of people stop taking a PPI because they cannot tolerate the side effects. In light of the potential risks, the FDA advises doctors and patients to only use PPIs when necessary and to limit them to the lowest dose for the shortest period required for relief, or that is appropriate for your condition.

One serious side effect of PPIs includes being susceptible to certain infections since there is a decreased production of stomach acid, which normally helps protect against infections by killing bacteria and viruses. Specifically, taking PPIs can increase the risk of community-acquired pneumonia, particularly within the first month of use. They can also increase the risk of infection with a bacterium called Clostridium difficile, which can cause disabling diarrhea and high fever and can lead to more serious intestinal conditions.

You may be at higher risk for infection if you have asthma, lung disease, decreased immunity (because of HIV or AIDS, for example), or are older. People 65 and older are already advised to get vaccinated against pneumonia and to get a flu shot every year. Taking a PPI on a regular basis may be another important reason to get both vaccines.

In addition, several studies have found that some people who took PPIs had a higher risk of hip fractures, and one study found an increased risk of wrist and forearm fractures. The drugs can potentially interfere with the absorption of calcium, which can lead to weakened bones. The bone fractures occurred mostly in patients older than 50 who either took high doses or PPI or stayed on them for one year or longer according to an FDA review.

In addition, when taken for longer than a year, PPIs can lower blood levels of magnesium. Although many patients don't have symptoms when their magnesium levels are low, it can be a serious condition leading to muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. If you might be on a PPI for a long time or if you are taking digoxin, a diuretic, or any other medication that can lower your magnesium, your doctor should order blood tests to monitor your magnesium levels.

Drug Interaction Concerns

PPIs are known to interact with other medicines and dietary supplements in ways that can be dangerous. In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you take a specific PPI because of evidence that it is less likely to interact with another drug you are taking.

People often take a PPI to decrease stomach irritation and bleeding that can occur with a blood-thinning drug called clopidogrel (Plavix or generic)-often prescribed for patients after heart attacks, strokes, stent placements, and other heart problems. But if you take Plavix, you should be cautious about taking a PPI, particularly esomeprazole or omeprazole because they can reduce Plavix's protective effect, which could increase the risk of another heart attack. This issue is important to discuss with your doctor if you take clopidogrel. Our medical advisers recommend that people who take Plavix should skip PPIs unless other treatments have not been adequate.

If you take Plavix and require a medication to treat your heartburn, GERD, or gastric ulcer and your symptoms aren't severe, another option may be an older class of drugs called H2 blockers, which includes nizatidine (Axid, Axid AR), famotidine (Pepcid, Pepcid AC), and ranitidine (Zantac, Zantac 75, Zantac 150). All are available as low-cost generics. You could also try an antacid. These drugs have not been associated with reducing the protective effects of Plavix. You should also talk to your doctor about having periodic blood counts or monitoring of your stools in order to detect gastrointestinal bleeding you may not be aware of (black, tarry stools can be a sign of this, for example).

The main drugs to be concerned about potentially interacting with PPIs are:

  • Clopidogrel (Plavix and generic), and potentially other anti-clotting medication, used to prevent clots after a heart attack, stroke, and/or stent placement
  • Blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin and generics)
  • Anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium and generics)
  • Antibiotics
  • Phenytoin (Dilantin and generics), used to treat epilepsy
  • Disulfuram (Antabuse and generic), used to treat alcoholism
  • Atazanavir (Reyataz) and nelfinavir (Viracept), used to treat HIV/AIDS

Another concern is whether PPIs are safe to take during pregnancy, because pregnant women are prone to heartburn and GERD. Unfortunately, there's not enough evidence to draw a firm conclusion about this.

One study found no increased risk of rates of preterm birth, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or stillbirth in women who took PPIs while pregnant, compared to those who did not. But this study had several limitations, so more studies would be needed to confirm there is no risk before a definitive conclusion can be made.

Finally, studies indicate that about three percent of Caucasians and African-Americans and 17 to 25 percent of Asian-Americans have less than average amounts of the enzymes that break down PPIs in the body. For these groups of people, less than the usual dose of a PPI might work just as well to relieve symptoms, though the usual doses are considered to be safe. Testing to determine a person's level of this enzyme is not necessary.

Cost and Our Best Buy Picks

While the seven PPIs evaluated in this report do not differ in effectiveness or safety, they do differ in price. The average monthly cost ranges from less than $20 to more than $400 (See PPI Cost Comparison table.). Taking the evidence for effectiveness, safety, cost, and other factors into account, if you need a PPI, we have chosen the following as Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs:

  • Generic omeprazole OTC
  • Generic lansoprazole OTC

These are proven medicines available without a prescription. For most people, they are as effective as the more expensive prescription alternatives. At less than $1 a day, generic omeprazole OTC and generic lansoprazole OTC cost one-tenth the price of several of the prescription alternatives, a major savings for those who need a PPI.

Although Zegerid OTC also costs about the same as the other over-the-counter PPIs-about $20 for a month's supply-we can't yet recommend it because the available studies on Zegerid did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the scientific analysis that forms the basis of this Best Buy Drugs report, so we don't know how it compares in terms of effectiveness and safety.

Our choice of these over-the-counter medicines presents two questions, however. The first is: Do you need to visit a doctor if you start taking one of them for heartburn and think you may have GERD? The answer is yes. Buying these drugs to relieve occasional heartburn requires no initial physician visit, saving you that trouble and expense. But if you have persistent heartburn-twice a week for several weeks-or you have soreness in your throat or chest, you should see a doctor as soon as possible, even as you continue to take the over-the-counter PPIs or any other nonprescription acid reducer. Remember, GERD can be dangerous and you can't diagnose it yourself.

The second question involves your health insurance status. Insurers do not typically pay for nonprescription medicines. So if you have insurance and your doctor says you need a PPI, he or she may be inclined to prescribe one rather than tell you to buy one of the over-the-counter PPIs. Before that happens, you should find out from your health plan if it covers over-the-counter PPIs. Some insurers do, and others may provide coverage under certain circumstances. If this is the case, you'll save money by starting your treatment with one of the drugs that doesn't require a prescription.

If your health plan does not offer coverage of an overthe- counter PPI, you can:

  • Consult with your doctor to choose the PPI that has the lowest out-of-pocket cost under your insurance plan. Generic prescription omeprazole, for example, may be available for a copayment of $5 to $10 a month.
  • Pay for an over-the-counter PPI instead of out of your own pocket.

Either way, your monthly cost will be relatively low, and the difference in cost between the two choices may be quite small. Choosing nonprescription omeprazole OTC or generic lansoprazole OTC offers the convenience of purchasing more without a doctor's prescription. And if your symptoms ease or disappear, you may not need to visit the doctor again.

If you do not have health insurance or prescription drug coverage, or you must pay a sizable portion of drug costs out-of-pocket, nonprescription omeprazole or lansoprazole are the clear drugs of choice. These will save you substantial amounts of money.

If you have GERD and have moderate to severe symptoms or esophagitis, you may need a higher dose of a PPI. If you take nonprescription omeprazole or lansoprazole, you could take one to two 20 mg tablets daily at a cost of around $17 to $34 a month.

In that context, the makers of Nexium have promoted it heavily as the superior drug to treat people with GERD and esophagitis. The figures we present in Table 1 show that, on average, Nexium may have a slight advantage over several of the other PPIs for such use. However, the justification for such a claim seems marginal at best. Nexium is usually prescribed at a dose of 40 mg, which studies have found to be more potent than, say, 20 mg of generic omeprazole or Prilosec OTC. Other studies have found Nexium 40 mg to be equivalent to Protonix at 40 mg and Prevacid 30 mg. In addition, one key study found that people with GERD without esophagitis did just as well with generic omeprazole at 20 mg as with Nexium at 20 mg or 40 mg.

However, if you have been diagnosed with esophagitis, you might want to consider Nexium, pantoprazole (Protonix and generic), or rabeprazole (AcipHex) because, as we previously noted, some research suggests they provide better healing from that condition. None are available over-the-counter, so they are all more expensive than our Best Buy picks. And because there are no generic formulations of Nexium and AcipHex, they are both substantially more expensive than generic pantoprazole.

5 Tips to Talking With Your Doctor

It's important for you to know that the information we present here is not meant to substitute for a doctor's judgment. But we hope it will help you and your doctor arrive at a decision about which PPI and dose is best for you, if one is warranted at all, and which gives you the most value for your health-care dollar.

1. Mention cost to your doctor.

Bear in mind that many people are reluctant to discuss the cost of medicines with their doctor, and that studies have found that doctors do not routinely take price into account when prescribing medicines. Unless you bring it up, your doctor may assume that cost is not a factor for you.

2. Ask about older medications.

Many people (including physicians) think that newer drugs are better. While that's a natural assumption to make, it's not always true. Studies consistently find that many older medicines are as good as, and in some cases better than, newer medicines. Think of them as "tried and true," particularly when it comes to their safety record. Newer drugs have not yet met the test of time, and unexpected problems can and do crop up once they hit the market. Of course, some newer prescription drugs are indeed more effective and safer. Talk with your doctor about newer vs. older medicines, including generic drugs.

3. Consider generic drugs.

Prescription medicines go "generic" when a company's patents on them have lapsed, usually after about 12 to 15 years. At that point, other companies can make and sell the drugs. Generics are much less expensive than newer brand-name medicines, but they are not lesser quality drugs. Indeed, most generics remain useful medicines even many years after first being marketed. That is why more than 75 percent of all prescriptions in the U.S. today are written for generics.

4. Keep up-to-date records.

Another important issue to talk with your doctor about is keeping a record of the drugs you take. There are several reasons for this:

  • First, if you see several doctors, each may not be aware of medicines the others have prescribed.
  • Second, since people differ in their response to medications, it's common for doctors today to prescribe several medicines before finding one that works well or best.
  • Third, many people take several prescription medications, nonprescription drugs, and dietary supplements at the same time. They can interact in ways that can either reduce the benefit you get from the drug or be dangerous.
  • Fourth, the names of prescription drugs-both generic and brand-are often hard to pronounce and remember.

For all these reasons, it's important to keep a written list of all the drugs and supplements you take and periodically review it with your doctors.

5. Know the facts.

Finally, always be sure that you understand the dose of the medicine being prescribed and how many pills you are expected to take each day. Your doctor should tell you this information. When you fill a prescription at a pharmacy, or if you get it by mail, check to see that the dose and the number of pills per day on the bottle match the amounts your doctor told you.

How We Picked the Best Buy PPIs

Our evaluation is based primarily on an independent scientific review of the studies and research literature on PPIs. A team of physicians and researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University Evidence-Based Practice Center conducted the analysis as part of the Drug Effectiveness Review Project, or DERP. DERP is a first-of-its-kind multi-state initiative to evaluate the comparative effectiveness and safety of hundreds of prescription drugs.

A synopsis of DERP's analysis of the PPIs is the basis for this report. A consultant to Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs is also a member of the Oregon-based research team, which has no financial interest in any pharmaceutical company or product. The full DERP review of PPIs is available at http://derp.ohsu.edu/ about/final-document-display.cfm. (This is a long and technical document written for physicians.)

To supplement the DERP analysis, a member of DERP also conducted an updated search for relevant studies that have been published since the publication of the DERP report.

Except where noted, the prices in this report for PPIs are national averages based on sales of prescription drugs in retail outlets. They reflect the retail price paid for a month's supply of each drug in April 2013 and were obtained from a healthcare information company that tracks the sales of prescription drugs in the U.S. For Prilosec OTC, Prevacid 24HR, and their generic counterparts, prices were obtained by Consumer Reports secret shoppers at five major chain pharmacies (CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart) and local supermarkets across the U.S. in January 2013. The average price for Zegerid OTC is based on prices at five online pharmacy stores (CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart) in May 2013.

Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs selected the Best Buy Drugs using the following criteria. The drug (and dose) had to:

  • Be in the top tier of effectiveness among the PPIs.
  • Have a safety record similar to or better than other PPIs.
  • Have an average monthly cost lower than other PPIs meeting the first two criteria.

The Consumers Reports Best Buy Drugs methodology is described in more detail in the methods section at www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org.

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2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

About Us

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References

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PPI Cost Comparison

Narrow your list

CR
Best Buy
Generic Name Brand NameA Frequency of UseB Average Monthly CostC
Dexlansoprazole 30 mg sustained-release tablets Dexilant One per day $188
Dexlansoprazole 60 mg sustained-release tablets Dexilant One per day $183
Esomeprazole 20 mg capsules Nexium One per day $240
Esomeprazole 40 mg capsules Nexium One per day $234
Lansoprazole 20 mg delayed-release tablets (nonprescription) Prevacid 24HR One per day $24D
1 Lansoprazole 20 mg delayed-release tablets (nonprescription) Generic One per day $17D
Lansoprazole 15 mg delayed-release capsules Prevacid One per day $265
Lansoprazole 15 mg delayed-release capsules Generic One per day $119
Lansoprazole 15 mg delayed-release dissolvable tablets Prevacid One per day $285
Lansoprazole 15 mg delayed-release dissolvable tablets Generic One per day $161
Lansoprazole 30 mg delayed-release capsules Prevacid One per day $275
Lansoprazole 30 mg delayed-release capsules Generic One per day $107
Lansoprazole 30 mg delayed-release dissolvable tablets Prevacid One per day $265
Lansoprazole 30 mg delayed-release dissolvable tablets Generic One per day $163
Omeprazole 20 mg tablets (nonprescription) Prilosec OTC One per day $22D
1 Omeprazole 20 mg tablets (nonprescription) Generic One per day $17D
Omeprazole 10 mg delayed-release capsules Prilosec One per day $211
Omeprazole 10 mg delayed-release capsules Generic One per day $64
Omeprazole 20 mg delayed-release capsules Prilosec One per day $236
Omeprazole 20 mg delayed-release capsules Generic One per day $58
Omeprazole 40 mg delayed-release capsules Prilosec One per day $374
Omeprazole 40 mg delayed-release capsules Generic One per day $134
Pantoprazole 20 mg delayed-release tablets Protonix One per day $254
Pantoprazole 20 mg delayed-release tablets Generic One per day $70
Pantoprazole 40 mg delayed-release tablets Protonix One per day $232
Pantoprazole 40 mg delayed-release tablets Generic One per day $66
Rabeprazole 20 mg tablets AcipHex One per day $355
  1. "Generic" indicates drug sold by generic name. Among PPIs, omeprazole, omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate, lansoprazole, and pantoprazole are available as generic drugs.
  2. As typically prescribed.
  3. Monthly cost reflects nationwide retail average prices for April 2013, rounded to the nearest dollar. Information was derived by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs from data provided by Symphony Health Solutions, which is not involved in our analysis or recommendations. Average monthly cost is based on recommended dosage of one pill daily.
  4. Prices for these medications were obtained by Consumer Reports secret shoppers at five major chain pharmacies (CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart) and local supermarkets across the U.S. in January 2013. The prices from the various stores were averaged to yield per-pill prices, which were then converted into a monthly price.