BACKGROUND: Little is known about differences between gastroenterologists and primary care physicians in their patterns of prescribing proton pump inhibitors. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: A survey of practicing primary care physicians from the American Board of Medical Specialties and practicing gastroenterologists from the American Gastroenterological Association was conducted by facsimile. The survey instrument consisted of 13 questions about pharmacokinetics and administration of proton pump inhibitors. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 15% (491 of 3273), and 80% (395 of 491) of respondents were nontrainee gastroenterologists or primary care physicians. Approximately 90% (n = 355) of eligible respondents correctly identified proton pump inhibitors as inhibitors of H+,K+-adenosinetriphos-phatase. Proton pump inhibitors were prescribed by 80% (n = 314) of each group for reflux esophagitis. They were prescribed by 67% (122 of 182) of gastroenterologists and 27% (58 of 213) of primary care physicians to prevent ulcers induced by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (P <0.001). And they were prescribed by 40% (n = 73) of gastroenterologists and 16% (n = 34) of primary care physicians for uncomplicated heartburn (P <0.001). Proton pump inhibitors were prescribed before a meal by 95% (n = 173) of gastroenterologists and 33% (n = 70) of primary care physicians (P <0.001). Nearly 99% (n = 391) of respondents agreed that proton pump inhibitors were safe, but only 15% (n = 59) thought they should be available without prescription. CONCLUSION: Our survey suggests that the use of proton pump inhibitors differs between gastroenterologists and primary care physicians. Furthermore, although most physicians believe that proton pump inhibitors are safe, few believe that they should be available without a prescription.
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