• Vol. 27 No. 2, 219–222
  • 15 March 1998

Are Antacids Necessary as Routine Prescriptives with Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs?



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In Singapore, there exists a local habit to routinely prescribe antacids with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) perhaps in the belief that gastrointestinal (Cl) symptoms and complications are common, and that antacids protect from them.

We prospectively studied 140 adults in an orthopaedic clinic who were prescribed a short course of NSAIDs (1 to 4 weeks) without antacids to determine the frequency and severity of GI symptoms. Symptomatic patients were then given antacids to determine their effect on the GI symptoms and followed up by telephone interview. These patients had mild inflammation, soft tissue rheumatism, injury or degenerative disease. All were otherwise well with no known peptic ulcer disease or major illness and were not on ulcerogenic drugs. Only 13 (9.3 %) had significant GI symptoms, of which 6 (4.2%) of the total took antacid and 5 (3.5%) had partial or total relief.

In this study, GI symptoms were not common with short course NSAIDs in otherwise well patients. Antacids may afford symptomatic relief for GI symptoms. However, because antacids may offer no significant protection against NSAID-induced peptic ulcer, may dangerously mask symptoms of GI irritation, may be troublesome to take and costly on a large scale, we should stop routine prescription of antacids in patients requiring only short-term NSAIDs and not at risk for peptic ulcer disease.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used for their analgesic or anti-inflammatory properties in musculoskeletal pain. However, they are not without adverse effects, such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea and fluid retention, which are reported to occur in 30% of people taking NSAIDs.

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