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Gaviscon is a non-prescription medicine, which is taken by mouth to treat heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Like antacids in general, Gaviscon is available as a solid, syrup or tablet. It is produced and distributed in the UK, Ireland and Australia by Reckitt Benckiser, in the US by GlaxoSmithKline and in Canada by Prestige Brands.
The formulation of Gaviscon varies by manufacturer. The three active ingredients in Reckitt Benckiser's version are sodium alginate, a bicarbonate (either sodium or potassium in variants) and an antacid (calcium carbonate). The GlaxoSmithKline variant lists only antacids as its active ingredients (aluminum hydroxide and either magnesium carbonate or magnesium trisilicate). Alginic acid and sodium bicarbonate are listed as inactive ingredients.
The combination of alginic acid and a bicarbonate forms a layer on the contents of the stomach, which prevents stomach acid from refluxing up into the esophagus. If reflux does occur the protective barrier is the first to contact the esophageal mucosa, instead of gastric contents.
Gaviscon infant, for children of 1 year and older, contains only the gelling agents sodium alginate and magnesium alginate. It helps stabilize the child's stomach contents to reduce reflux and regurgitation, but it is not an antacid.