Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Pharmaceutical sales reps will do whatever it takes to get you to prescribe their product to patients. It has toned down a bit over the past several years due to federal regulations, but their relentless pestering hasn't waned much. Free trips and expensive dinners are no longer given out, but the sales reps will try whatever it takes to get your attention to their product: books, manuals, pens, post-it pads, and of course, food.

A well known pharmaceutical company that manufactures medicines for the treatment of heartburn often has their sales reps drop off a bowl of peppermint candies and breathmints on a regular basis. The patients and staff at the clinics snap them up like crack. Nobody wants to be the one with bad breath.

Peppermint has been shown to relax the muscles that make up the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the 3 to 5 centimeter portion of the lower esophagus that physiologically separates the stomach from the esophagus. This area maintains a constant state of contraction unless a swallow is initiated, thus preventing the backwash of stomach contents into the esophagus, and preventing heartburn.

By consuming peppermint, this esophageal sphincter relaxes, thus allowing the contents of the stomach a greater chance of flowing backwards into the esophagus and either aggravating the existing heartburn, or exposing the patient to heartburn.


Interesting coincidence, I thought.