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BACKGROUND: Pantoprazole is a substituted benzimidazole which is a potent inhibitor of gastric acid secretion by its action upon H+, K+- ATPase. METHODS: Pantoprazole 40 mg and 80 mg were compared in a randomized double-blind study in 192 out-patients with stage II or III (Savary-Miller classification) reflux oesophagitis. Patients received either pantoprazole 40 mg (n = 97) or pantoprazole 80 mg (n = 95), once daily before breakfast for 4 weeks. Treatment was extended for a further 4 weeks if the oesophagitis had not healed. RESULTS: After 4 weeks complete healing of the reflux oesophagitis was seen in 78% of protocol-correct patients given pantoprazole 40 mg daily (n = 86), and in 72% in the 80 mg (n = 87) group. The cumulative healing rates after 8 weeks were 95 and 94%, respectively (P > 0.05, Cochran-Mantel- Haenszel), and time until healing of oesophagitis comparable in both groups. Differences between doses were also not significant in an intention-to-treat analysis. Both dosing schedules were well tolerated and the patients experienced remarkable symptom relief. No adverse event or changes in laboratory values of clinical significance could definitely be ascribed to the trial medication. CONCLUSION: The 40 mg pantoprazole dosage is comparable to 80 mg in reflux oesophagitis, both in efficacy and tolerability.