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7 Best Medications for Heartburn - 2021

Madeline Hlobik06 Aug 2021

Heartburn is a condition that 60 million Americans experience at least once per month. The main causes of heartburn include acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic form of acid reflux. The best medication for heartburn includes classes of heartburn medications: antacids, histamine-2 (H2) blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

To avoid these symptoms, you can take various kinds of medications—  from over-the-counter (OTC) to prescription. To obtain access to some of these prescription forms of heartburn medication, consider signing up for Mira, an affordable alternative to health insurance that allows you to get up to 80% off on prescriptions. 

Best Heartburn Medications 

There are three main classes of heartburn medications: antacids, histamine-2 (H2) blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These different forms of heartburn medications all have unique benefits, side effects, and each one tends to be better suited for specific health condition needs. We have compiled a list of the best heartburn medications for different needs to analyze these components better. These seven best heartburn medications include:

  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)
  • Mylicon
  • Calcium carbonate (TUMS)
  • Maalox
  • Sodium Bicarbonate

Famotidine: Most Effective Heartburn Medication

If you’re in search of a strong relief from heartburn that is relatively cost-effective, Famotidine (commonly known as Pepcid) may be the right option for you. Pepcid is an H2 blocker that works by lowering the levels of acid produced in the stomach. Through this, Pepcid is not only effective in relieving heartburn but also in treating acid reflux. 

Pepcid is a viable option in treating heartburn, as it is relatively fast-acting and long-lasting. On average, after taking Pepcid, individuals report noticing relief of heartburn within an hour, and typically, the effects of famotidine last for 10 to 12 hours after an initial dose. Pepcid is also a medication that can be purchased OTC or as a prescription. This unique flexibility of Pepcid allows it to be relatively accessible for all patients while also being capable of coming in higher doses for those who need more intense care. For an OTC pack of Pepcid, the average cost is typically under $10. 

Famotidine is best taken with a glass of water. Additionally, it can be taken with or without food. The most common side effects of famotidine include a headache or gastrointestinal pain (constipation, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain).

Omeprazole: Best OTC Heartburn Medication

Omeprazole, commonly known as Prilosec, is a PPI that reduces the quantity of food-digesting acid made by the cells within the lining of your stomach. In fact, Prilosec was one of the first and strongest PPIs created to combat acid reflux. According to Dr. Ghouri, Prilosec OTC “is usually sufficient in controlling symptoms in a majority of [heartburn] cases” and has been the #1 Doctor Recommended frequent heartburn relief medicine for 14 years.

There are various benefits to using Prilosec OTC, most notably the ease of the dosing schedule and the effectiveness in lowering frequent piques of heartburn in individuals. When taking Prilosec OTC, you only have to take one pill per day for 14 days. Although it may take between one to four days to experience the full effect, Prilosec OTC begins to work, and individuals notice relief on the first day of treatment. After the fourteenth day, acid production should grow to be controlled consistently.

Prilosec OTC prices tend to vary, from being $18.44 on Amazon to $85.90 on Walmart. Despite the slightly higher cost than Pepcid, Prilosec OTC provides long-term relief from heartburn following the 14 days. Similar to Pepcid, the common side effects produced are only a headache and abdominal pain. 

Esomeprazole: Best Heartburn Medication for GERD

Esomeprazole, commonly known as Nexium, is a PPI used to combat GERD and, therefore, heartburn by reducing the creation of acid in the stomach. Nexium is prescribed frequently as 40 mg. However, it recently became available for 20 mg doses of OTC at an affordable price.

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Because GERD tends to be a more severe form of acid reflux, a PPI such as Nexium at a higher dose is a beneficial choice in relieving heartburn. In comparison to other PPIs, studies have shown that patients treated with Nexium also tend to have faster symptom relief than patients treated with other PPIs such as Prilosec. Another benefit of Nexium is that the prescription is usually covered by both insurance and medicare.

Typically, Nexium is taken every day for anywhere from 10 days to six months. The most common side effects of Nexium include abdominal pain, which occurs in 5% of individuals, followed by constipation in 2% of people.

Nexium vs. Prilosec,

 NexiumPrilosec
Brand/generic statusBrand and genericBrand and generic
What is the generic name?Esomeprazole magnesiumOmeprazole magnesium
What form(s) does the drug come in?

Rx: delayed-release capsules, suspension, packets, injection

OTC: capsules, mini capsules, tablets

Rx: delayed-release capsules, suspension

OTC: delayed-release tablets

What is the standard dosage?Varies by indication: usually 20-40 mg once or twice daily (adult dose)Varies by indication: usually, 20-40 mg once or twice daily (adult dose)
How long is the typical treatment?10 days to 6 months, many patients take for longer10 days to 8 weeks, many patients take longer
Who typically uses the medication?Adults and childrenAdults and children

Source: https://www.singlecare.com/blog/nexium-vs-prilosec/ 

Mylicon: Best Heartburn Medication for Children

Unlike the other medications, mylicon is actually an anti-foaming agent that can act as an antacid for children ages 2-11. Mylicon has an active ingredient, Simethicone, that gently breaks up gas bubbles in the stomach. Additionally, it contains Calcium Carbonate, which is an antacid.

Mylicon was specifically designed to soothe discomfort from gas, acid, indigestion, overeating, and bloating. It is a fast-acting medication you can pick up OTC and typically costs only $11 for 15 milliliters. For most children, Mylicon starts working in just minutes following consumption.

The only potential side effect of Mylicon is loose stools. However, only use Mylicon for your child as directed and no more than 12 times per day. See below for the suggested doses of Mylicon to give your child.

Age (years)Weight (lbs)Dose (ml)
Infants under 2Under 240.3
Children over 2Over 240.6

Source: https://www.mylicon.com/faq/#:~:text=How%20does%20it%20work%3F,antacid%20quickly%20neutralizes%20stomach%20acid

Calcium Carbonate: Best Heartburn Medication for Pregnancy 

Unfortunately, heartburn is a medical issue that bothers many women at a higher incidence during pregnancy. To combat these symptoms, OTC antacids such as Calcium Carbonate (TUMS) tend to be best. TUMS work by neutralizing the acid present within the stomach, which aids in taking away heartburn.

Doctors often recommend an OTC medication such as TUMS for pregnant individuals because it does not contain magnesium or high sodium levels. Medications with magnesium can interfere with contractions later on in pregnancies, and antacids with high sodium levels can cause a high level of fluid buildup in tissues. TUMS is also a great option because they tend to work instantly. The only downside TUMS presents is that they tend to wear off quickly.

TUMS typically does not pose any major side effects. The only main side effects associated with TUMS are belching and gas. TUMS is also available OTC at a relatively cheap cost— ranging anywhere from $1.98 at Walmart to $23.68 on Amazon, making this option enticing for pregnant individuals. 

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Maalox: Best Heartburn Medication for Immediate Relief

Maalox is an antacid used for very fast-acting relief from heartburn. In Maalox, Simethicone is used to help destroy gas bubbles within the gut, and aluminum and magnesium work to reduce acid levels in the stomach. This form of heartburn medication only works on existing stomach acid.

Maalox usually works within five minutes of consumption. However, the catch is that it will only work for 30 minutes to 60 minutes at the most. Thus, if you continue to experience symptoms for up to two weeks following your initial date of taking Maalox, you may need a stronger heartburn medication.

Typically, Maalox should be taken after meals or around bedtime. The most common side effects of Maalox include constipation and diarrhea. If these side effects persist for over two weeks, though, you may consider contacting a physician. 

Sodium Bicarbonate: Most Affordable Heartburn Medication

Sodium Bicarbonate is an OTC medication that assists with neutralizing the levels of acid in your stomach due to its alkaline pH properties, which can help relieve heartburn. In particular, though, Sodium Bicarbonate is the cheapest antacid available, costing only $3.34 on the GoodRx site. This price is 59% off the retail price of sodium Bicarbonate, which is $8.16.

Through this low cost, individuals who suffer from heartburn can seek medical help at an affordable price. However, individuals who use Sodium Bicarbonate to help with heartburn should use it with care. Typically, doctors recommend only using it when symptoms first appear temporarily. This is because other issues could harm the body if the body becomes too alkaline.

The most common side effects of Sodium Bicarbonate include gas, bloating, cramps, and increased thirst. Doctors advise that children the age of six should only use Sodium Bicarbonate as a medication if prescribed.  

Heartburn Medication Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Heartburn is a complex medical issue that may cause many individuals to know that they are experiencing heartburn. To better grasp heartburn and the medications available, take a look at these commonly asked questions and answers below. 

What are the long-term effects of heartburn? 

Long-term acid reflux may lead to GERD, which is a more chronic form of acid reflux. Over time, this can damage the esophagus, leading to a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, which is typically a precursor to esophageal cancer. On average, less than 10% of GERD patients have some form of esophageal cancer.

What can trigger heartburn?

Certain foods and beverages can trigger heartburn in individuals. These include but are not limited to spicy foods, onions, citrus products, chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, and fried foods. Additionally, individuals who are pregnant or overweight may also have a higher risk of experiencing heartburn. 

Are there any alternatives to relieving heartburn besides medications?

There are various steps you could take to relieve heartburn without medication. To begin, you could make sure to stand up straight or elevate your body following the heartburn. Additionally, you could wear loose clothing, chew gum, or try sipping apple cider vinegar.

Are there any long-term effects of heartburn medication?

Occasionally, long-term use of heartburn medication can be associated with a higher chance of having dementia, chronic kidney disease, or heart attacks. Before taking any medication, make sure you know the side effects and the allotted amount of time you should take it.

Bottom Line

Heartburn is a medical condition with unpleasant symptoms that many individuals have to battle at some point in their life. Between antacids, H2 blockers, and PPIs, though, many heartburn medications are available. Each category has a plethora of heartburn medications. The difficult part is narrowing down which is best for you. If you don’t have a pre-existing medical condition and look into the best OTC medication, Prilosec might be for you. However, if you’re currently pregnant, you may opt to start with TUMS. 

If you believe you will need a prescription for heartburn medication, Mira could be a great avenue for you to obtain this medical care. By joining Mira today, you will have access to up to 80% off prescriptions, lab testings, and urgent care visits.