Background:  Erosive gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition requiring long-term maintenance treatment. However, few trials of proton pump inhibitors in maintaining healing of erosive or ulcerative GERD are conducted for longer than 1 year.

Aim:  To compare the efficacy and safety of 10- and 20-mg rabeprazole with placebo in the 5-year maintenance of healing in patients previously diagnosed with erosive/ulcerative GERD healed in an acute efficacy trial.

Methods:  Patients (N = 497) were randomized to receive once-daily doses of 10- or 20-mg rabeprazole or placebo. The primary efficacy measure was endoscopically documented absence of oesophageal erosions or ulcerations.

Results:  After 5 years, relapse rates in both rabeprazole groups were significantly lower than with placebo (rabeprazole 20 mg, 11%; 10 mg, 23%; placebo, 63%; P < 0.001 for rabeprazole vs. placebo; P = 0.005 for rabeprazole 20 mg vs. 10 mg). Both rabeprazole doses were significantly superior to placebo in preventing relapse of heartburn frequency and improving patient quality of life. Analyses of adverse events, biopsy findings and laboratory values showed no evidence of clinically significant effects.

Conclusions:  Five-year maintenance therapy with rabeprazole is effective in preventing relapse of erosive or ulcerative GERD and is well tolerated.