Background: Pantoprazole is a proton pump inhibitor approved for the treatment of erosive oesophagitis and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Aim: To compare the efficacy and safety of pantoprazole vs. nizatidine for the treatment of symptomatic gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and endoscopically documented erosive oesophagitis (grade ≥ 2). Methods: A multicentre, double-blind, randomized, active-controlled study (221 patients) was performed to compare 20 and 40 mg pantoprazole daily with nizatidine 150 mg b.d. (maximum, 8 weeks). The primary end-point was endoscopic healing of erosive oesophagitis (grade 1 or 0). The secondary end-point was symptomatic improvement. Results: Healing averaged 61%, 64% and 22% for pantoprazole 20 mg, pantoprazole 40 mg and nizatidine 150 mg, respectively, at 4 weeks, and 79%, 83% and 41% at 8 weeks (P < 0.05, differences between groups at both points). Starting on day 1 of symptom assessment, significantly fewer pantoprazole-treated patients reported night-time heartburn and regurgitation compared with nizatidine-treated patients. Symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease were completely eliminated in 68% and 65% of patients in the pantoprazole 20-mg and 40-mg groups and in 28% of patients in the nizatidine group at study completion. The difference between each pantoprazole group and the nizatidine group was significant (P < 0.05). Conclusions: Pantoprazole, at single daily doses of 20 mg and 40 mg for up to 8 weeks, provides more rapid relief of symptoms and superior healing of erosive oesophagitis than nizatidine 150 mg b.d., and is well tolerated.