In a move that could change the way millions of ulcer sufferers are treated, government scientists urged approval Wednesday of the first antibiotic therapy to kill the bacteria behind the pain.
Doctors have known for years that the bacterium H. pylori, not excess stomach acid, causes most ulcers. The National Institutes of Health last year recommended patients take antibiotics to kill that bug. But few doctors follow that advice - most just give ulcer sufferers acid blockers that must be taken for years or the ulcer will come back.
On Wednesday, scientific advisers recommended the Food and Drug Administration take steps to change that. The panel recommended the agency allow doctors to add the antibiotic clarithromycin to the popular ulcer drug Prilosec to kill the bacteria. And it recommended approving a new drug to be used with the same antibiotic to also heal those bacteria-caused ulcers.
Such drugs “mean in two to five years we could wipe out 90 percent of the peptic ulcers in the United States,” said Dr. Barry Marshall, who discovered H. pylori a decade ago and has battled since for a worldwide change in ulcer treatment.
H. pylori is a common infection, affecting six of 10 Americans, although not all of them experience any illness. It is blamed for 80 percent of the 4.5 million ulcers diagnosed every year.