Many of the drug groups discussed elsewhere in this book have important applications in the treatment of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and other organs. Other groups are used almost exclusively for their effects on the gut; these are discussed in the following text according to their therapeutic uses.
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Acid-peptic diseases include gastroesophageal reflux, peptic ulcer (gastric and duodenal), and stress-related mucosal injury. In all these conditions, mucosal erosions or ulceration arise when the caustic effects of aggressive factors (acid, pepsin, bile) overwhelm the defensive factors of the gastrointestinal mucosa (mucus and bicarbonate secretion, prostaglandins, blood flow, and the processes of restitution and regeneration after cellular injury). Over 90% of peptic ulcers are caused by infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori or by use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Drugs used in the treatment of acid-peptic disorders may be divided into two classes: agents that reduce intragastric acidity and agents that promote mucosal defense.
The parietal cell contains receptors for gastrin (CCK-B), histamine (H2), and acetylcholine (muscarinic, M3) (Figure 62-1). When acetylcholine (from vagal postganglionic nerves) or gastrin (released from antral G cells into the blood) bind to the parietal cell receptors, they cause an increase in cytosolic calcium, which in turn stimulates protein kinases that stimulate acid secretion from a H+,K+ ATPase (the proton pump) on the canalicular surface.
In close proximity to the parietal cells are gut endocrine cells called enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cells. ECL cells also have receptors for gastrin and acetylcholine, which stimulate histamine release. Histamine binds to the H2 receptor on the parietal cell, resulting in activation of adenylyl cyclase, which increases intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and activates protein kinases that stimulate acid secretion by the H+,K+ ATPase. In humans, it is believed that the major effect of gastrin upon acid secretion is mediated indirectly through the release of histamine from ECL cells rather than through direct parietal cell stimulation. In contrast, acetylcholine provides potent direct parietal cell stimulation.
Antacids have been used for centuries in the treatment of patients with dyspepsia and acid-peptic disorders. They were the mainstay of treatment for acid-peptic disorders until the advent of H2-receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors. They continue to be used commonly by patients as nonprescription remedies for the treatment of intermittent heartburn and dyspepsia.
Antacids are weak bases that react with gastric hydrochloric acid to form a salt and water. Their principal mechanism of action is reduction of intragastric acidity. After a meal, approximately 45 mEq/h of hydrochloric acid is secreted. A single dose of 156 mEq of antacid given 1 hour after a meal effectively neutralizes gastric acid for up to 2 hours.
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