Influx of Bad Acid Reflux in England

Barretts disease increased over a decade while acid reflux remained stable

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) First there's the heartburn. And maybe nausea. It's common among people with acid reflux and, across the UK, more are letting it become a bigger problem.

More and more patients are developing Barrett's disease, with the number of diagnoses doubling within a decade in England, a new study has found.

The researchers say that the number of people with acid reflux may have been underestimated because doctors thought their patients had indigestion and heartburn. 

"Avoid eating before bed to reduce reflux symptoms."

Researchers, led by Kalliopi Alexandropoulou, MD, from the Department of Gastroenterology at St George’s Hospital and Medical School in London, England, aimed to find how many people in the UK got acid reflux or Barrett's esophagus, in which the tube connecting the mouth and stomach starts to show changes to the cells.

The study involved over 130,000 patients found through the UK's General Practice Research Database between 1996 and 2005. Doctors record the prescriptions they write, as well as the clinical data of their patients, in the database, which represents the UK's population.

"The study period from 1996 to 2005 spans a time of ongoing change in the management of acid-related conditions, including [ulcer] treatment, access to endoscopy and drug prescriptions," researchers wrote in their report.

"It provides a reliable reflection of the burden of these diseases currently in the UK and a baseline for future studies to compare trends in disease epidemiology as management changes are implemented."

For each of the stomach problems, researchers looked at the differences between gender and age, and calculated how many cases there were each year. They also accounted for how often patients had some kind of acid suppression treatment.

Over the decade, about 125,000 people had acid reflux and the remaining 5,000 had Barrett's. Researchers found that the number of patients with Barrett's esophagus doubled over the course of the study.

For men, 11 out 100,000 were diagnosed each year at the start of the study and increased to 24 out of 100,000 by the end. As for women, the number of diagnoses increased from 6 out of 100,000 to 11 out of 100,000. Most of the patients were between 50 and 75 years of age.

Cancer in the esophagus occurred more than 10 times as often among patients with Barrett's, compared to those with just acid reflux. The vast majority of these diagnoses were in men.

Proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPI), which lowers the amount of stomach acid being produced to treat a number of stomach problems, were prescribed more often over the course of the study to treat reflux.

The authors do not report any conflicts of interest. The study will be published in the January issue of the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 9, 2012
Last Updated:
December 11, 2012