On-demand proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy is an attractive option for long-term management of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Controlled trials in non-erosive reflux disease (NERD) patients have shown sufficient symptom control in most patients with a high rate of willingness to continue treatment and substantial saving on PPI expenditure. However, due to the slow onset of action of PPIs, rescue antacids are often used when symptoms recur and several patients continue to experience some degree of heartburn. On-demand treatment is less cost-saving in patients with esophagitis, and symptomatic/endoscopic relapses occur frequently in severe grades. Data on the prevention of long-term sequelae of on-demand treatment are scarce, only indirect evidence being available. It is suggested that PPI continuous maintenance is more appropriate than on-demand therapy in patients with severe esophagitis, in those with Barrett’s esophagus where chronic PPIs may reduce incidence of dysplasia, in uninvestigated elderly patients where esophagitis is more prevalent and it is more frequently complicated with gastrointestinal bleeding and possibly in uninvestigated or NERD patients with frequent clinical relapses. Finally, more appropriate outcome variables should be used in future trials in order to assess efficacy of on-demand treatment adequately.

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