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Magnetic Implant May Ease Chronic Acid Reflux
Date:2/20/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- An implanted magnetic device could offer a new treatment option for people with chronic heartburn that is not controlled with medication, a small study suggests.

The study, reported in the Feb. 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, tested a newer approach to taming stubborn cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) -- one of the most common health conditions diagnosed in the United States.

GERD arises when the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach fails to close properly, allowing stomach acids to splash up into the esophagus. The main symptom is chronic heartburn.

For people who have frequent heartburn -- more than twice a week -- the go-to medications are the so-called proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium. But studies estimate that up to 40 percent of people on those drugs do not get enough relief.

The new study included 100 such GERD patients. They all received an implant -- a bracelet-like device composed of magnetic beads -- that wraps around the portion of muscle where the esophagus joins the stomach. The point is to "augment" the muscle and prevent stomach acid reflux.

After three years, researchers found, 64 percent of the patients had their acid reflux cut by at least half. And 87 percent had been able to stop taking their proton pump inhibitors altogether.

"That's huge," lead researcher Dr. Robert Ganz said of the medication reduction.

It's estimated that Americans spend $14 billion a year on prescription proton pump inhibitors. Because of the costs and potential side effects, many people would like to drop the drugs, said Ganz, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

He cited bone-thinning as one potential long-term side effect. "A lot of women do not want to be on proton pump inhibitors for that reason in partic
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