Do the Drugs Do the Job for Kids?

Proton pump inhibitors are questionable treatment for children with acid reflux disease

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

(RxWiki News) Heartburn isn't just a problem for adults. Kids can have the condition too. So, should doctors treat children the same way as adults? Do the same heartburn drugs work for people of all ages?

The research is not entirely clear on the answer to these questions. While studies have shown that certain drugs for acid reflux disease (the disease that causes heartburn) do not work in infants, there has not been enough research on whether the drugs work in older children.

"Kids and teens should be careful when taking heartburn drugs."

Adult patients often take Prilosec or Prevacid (proton-pump inhibitors, or PPIs) to fight acid reflux disease. There have not been many studies on whether or not these drugs work for children, write Rachel J. van der Pol, M.D., from Emma Children's Hospital AMC in the Netherlands, and co-authors in a recent research article.

There has been a huge increase in the number of children taking PPIs to fight the symptoms of acid reflux disease, such as heartburn. At the same time, researchers are still trying to find out if the drugs are safe and effective in children.

To shed some light on the question, van der Pol and colleagues looked over studies that had already been done.

They found one study showing that PPIs were better than baby formula at reducing acid reflux symptoms in infants. Two studies showed that PPIs were not as effective as placebos for treating infants. Two other studies showed that PPIs worked just as well as placebos for infants.

For children and teens, PPIs were just as effective as ranitidine (often sold as Zantac) at reducing acid reflux symptoms.

These studies show that PPIs may sometimes work in the short-term for children and teens. However, there is little evidence that they work in the long-term.

The authors conclude that PPIs do not work for infants. They add that there need to be more studies comparing PPIs to placebos in order to know whether the drugs work in older children.

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Review Date: 
June 17, 2011
Last Updated:
June 20, 2011