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Summary

Background : Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and constipation have a major impact on public health; however, the wide variety of treatment options presents difficulties for recommending therapy. Lack of definitive guidelines in pharmacy and general practice medicine further exacerbates the decision dilemma.

Aims : To address these issues, a panel of experts discussed the principles and practice of treating GERD and constipation in the general population and in pregnancy, with the aim of developing respective treatment guidelines.

Results : The panel recommended antacids ‘on-demand’ as the first-line over-the-counter treatment in reflux, and as rescue medication for immediate relief when reflux breaks through with proton pump inhibitors. Calcium/magnesium-based antacids were recommended as the treatment of choice for pregnant women because of their good safety profile. In constipation, current data do not distinguish a hierarchy between polyethylene glycol (PEG)-based laxatives and other first-line treatments, although limitations are associated with stimulant- and bulk-forming laxatives. Where data are available, PEG is superior to lactulose in terms of efficacy. In pregnancy, PEG-based laxatives meet the criteria for the ideal treatment.

Conclusions : The experts developed algorithms that present healthcare professionals with clear treatment options and management strategies for GERD and constipation in pharmacy and general practice medicine.