SUMMARY. Patients with reflux esophagitis (grade II or III, Savary–Miller, intention-to-treat, n=256, age range 19–82 years) were randomly assigned to a double-blind, double-dummy treatment with either pantoprazole 40 mg once daily or ranitidine 150 mg twice daily. After 4 weeks, each patient was clinically and endoscopically assessed. Failure to heal required a further 4 weeks of treatment and a new evaluation thereafter. After 4 weeks, healing of lesions was confirmed in 63% (69 out of 109) of patients receiving pantoprazole and in 22% (25 out of 113) receiving ranitidine (P < 0.001, per protocol population). After 8 weeks, the cumulative healing rates were 88% and 46%, respectively (P < 0.001). Complete freedom from esophagitis-related symptoms (acid eructation, heartburn, pain while swallowing) was greater in the pantoprazole than in ranitidine group after 2 and 4 weeks (74% vs. 47%; 87% vs. 52%, respectively, P < 0.001). After 4 weeks, the healing rate was 76% in Helicobacter pylori (Hp)-positive vs. 45% in Hp-negative patients treated with pantoprazole (P < 0.01). The Hp status did not influence healing rates in patients treated with ranitidine. The most frequent adverse events in the pantoprazole group were diarrhea and somnolence (2–3% of patients), and in the ranitidine group, headache, diarrhea, dizziness, increase of liver enzymes and pruritus (2–4% of patients). In conclusion, pantoprazole was more effective than ranitidine in the healing rate and relief from reflux esophagitis-associated symptoms, and Hp infection was associated with higher healing rate during therapy with pantoprazole but not with ranitidine.