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What Doctors Don't Tell You © (Volume 9, Issue 5)

This was almost panacea enough to those who thought they would be on anti ulcer medication for life. But maybe not, say some sceptics, to the drug companies who were already making millions of pounds and dollars a year from the sale of acid blocking drugs estimated to be one of the biggest medical money spinners of all time.

As a short term remedy for heartburn, these drugs can be effective. But, using them to try and eradicate bacterial ulcers is now regarded as nothing more than a sticking plaster approach. Not only are the ulcers extremely likely to recur, a greater danger lies in that fact that such medications can mask more serious disorders such as early signs of oesophageal and stomach cancers. Now that these drugs are easily obtained without prescription, the American College of Gastroenterologists (representing some 5000 specialists in more than 30 countries) is concerned that sufferers may delay seeing their physicians.

Researchers have also found that, because this medication suppresses stomach acid (which kills bacteria), those taking it face a tenfold increase in the risk of developing stomach ulcers and, more seriously, gastroenteritis.

A further concern is that, although more than 90 out of every 100 people with ulcers harbour Heliobacter, the bug also occurs in patients who never develop ulcers. But the possibility of the ulcer causing infection being passed from one family member to another is so strong that screening programmes are being recommended to test and treat relatives before H pylori gets out of hand. It isn't a question of catching the bug and contracting an immediate ulcer. H pylori can lurk in the gut for years, waiting until the "right" conditions prevail such as other illness or lowered immunity.

There is no getting away from the fact that, on "conventional" anti ulcer medication, symptoms recur in 80 per cent of people. However, ongoing treatment is good for the company's balance sheet since the drugs bill for one ulcer patient can run into thousands of pounds or dollars.

A one off antibiotic cocktail to kill the bacteria and cure the ulcer costs a comparatively piffling £25 to £30. An excellent example of how the sensible use of antibiotics can be lifesaving.

As a result of the H pylori discovery, it seems likely that the widespread use of orthodox anti ulcer drugs will diminish. However, their value for short term use should not be denied since they can provide welcome relief from the stress and discomfort caused by an isolated attack of acid reflux, stomach irritation or non ulcer dyspepsia. For example, aspirin based drugs and other non steroidal, anti inflammatory drugs can cause ulcers themselves.

Dr Marshall himself discovered that it can be beneficial to use acid reducing drugs to relieve symptoms whilst the antibiotics go to work on the pylori perpetrator. Even patients who are not H pylori positive but have problems with over acidity may benefit from a short course of antibiotic therapy and a few days on cimetidine (Tagmet), ranitidine (Zantec) or omeprazole (Losec), followed by a course of repopulating probiotic supplements. It is possible that they may have a low level infection and/or small ulcers which have not been spotted in routine tests.

In other words, if you have a persistent or recurring problem with dyspepsia or gastritis, it might still be beneficial for you to go the antibiotic route, even though your tests for bacteria proved negative. If you are concerned, chat with your GP or ask for a referral.

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What Doctors Don't Tell You What Doctors Don’t Tell You is one of the few publications in the world that can justifiably claim to solve people's health problems - and even save lives. Our monthly newsletter gives you the facts you won't......more
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