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H-2 Blockers

Overview :

There are four H2 receptor blockers on the market. Although they all work in the same manner and have similar effects, they are not all approved for the same uses.

Cimetidine (Tagamet) is available in both prescription and over-the-counter forms. The oldest of the group and the most studied, this drug is the least potent of the H2 receptor blockers, which means that higher dosages are required to provide comparable effects. There is no evidence that higher potency improves therapeutic results.

Cimetidine is the only drug in its class which is approved for prevention of upper gastro-intestinal bleeding. It has been reported on for a number of uses, with varying degrees of success. Cimetidine, like ranitidine, has shown some benefit in treatment of colorectal cancer. Although some claims have been made that cimetidine is useful in treatment of acetaminophen overdose, the evidence for this use is lacking, and cimetidine should not be used. Because cimetidine is a mild antiandrogen, it has been of some use in treatment of hirsutism (abnormal growth of hair on a woman's face and body).

The three other H2 receptor blockers, famotidine (Pepcid, Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid), and ranitidine (Zantac), are similar in their uses. All are approved for treatment of duodenal ulcer both acute treatment and maintenance therapy, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, including erosive esophagitis and gastric ulcer short term treatment, although in this group ranitidine alone is approved for maintenance treatment.

In their over-the-counter (non-prescription) forms, cimetidine and famotidine are approved for treatment of heartburn, acid indigestion, and sour stomach.

Drugs in this class are similar in other respects as well. Although study results vary, cimetidine will usually show its effects within one hour and last for about five hours after a single dose; famotidine and nizatidine also show effects within one hour but may act for up to 12 hours at maximum dosing. Ranitidine has a comparable onset of action and duration in adults but may be slower in the elderly. Onset and duration of action will vary with the individual, the dose of medication, and the presence or absence of food or antacids in the stomach.

When Facts and Comparisons, a widely used on-line drug information resource, compared the published reports on cure rates for duodenal ulcers, it found that after eight weeks of treatment, all drugs showed healing rates in the range of 82% to 95%. These results were based on comparing separate studies and did not represent comparative trials of the drugs against each other.

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