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Background:

Rabeprazole has a faster onset of antisecretory action than omeprazole, and it is of interest to determine whether this translates into faster symptom relief in patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.

Aims:

To assess the relief from heartburn after 3 days of treatment with standard-dose rabeprazole or high-dose omeprazole (primary end-point). Secondary end-points included the decrease in score for other symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, healing rates and quantification of antacid use.

Methods:

Patients with endoscopically confirmed erosive oesophagitis were randomized to receive 4 weeks of double-blind treatment with rabeprazole (20 mg) or omeprazole (40 mg). Patients who were not healed after 4 weeks received a further 4 weeks of treatment.

Results:

Two hundred and seventy-four patients were screened, 251 patients were randomized and 230 patients completed the trial. The numbers of patients with relief from heartburn on day 4 were similar in the two groups (84% for rabeprazole; 95% confidence interval, 76–90%; 83% for omeprazole; 95% confidence interval, 75–89%). There were no significant differences between the treatments in the relief from other gastro-oesophageal reflux disease symptoms or in healing rates. The number of reports of severe heartburn during the first 3 days was higher in the omeprazole group (daytime heartburn: 4.7% for rabeprazole vs. 10.3% for omeprazole, P=0.005; night-time heartburn: 4.7% for rabeprazole vs. 9.8% for omeprazole, P=0.01; statistical comparisons defined post hoc).

Conclusions:

Standard-dose rabeprazole was as effective as high-dose omeprazole in relieving symptoms by day 4 of treatment and in healing oesophageal lesions, but had a faster onset of action in patients with severe heartburn. This suggests that the improved pharmacological properties of rabeprazole translate into a clinically relevant advantage.