Acid gastro-oesophageal reflux may aggravate respiratory symptoms in patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by increasing airway hyperresponsiveness through vagally-mediated pathways. We wanted to determine whether elimination of acid reflux could improve symptoms in such patients. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 36 allergic and nonallergic subjects (17 males and 19 females, mean age 52 yrs), with airway obstruction and severe airway hyperresponsiveness despite maintenance treatment with an inhaled corticosteroid and with increased acid gastro-oesophageal reflux, were treated either with omeprazole, 40 mg b.i.d., or placebo for 3 months. Primary endpoints were: airway hyperresponsiveness, as determined by the provocative concentration of methacholine producing a 20% fall in forced expiratory volume in one second (PC20); and airway obstruction. Secondary endpoints were: peak expiratory flow variability; reversibility to inhaled ipratropium bromide as a parameter of vagal activity; asthma symptoms scores; and medication used. Reflux was measured by 24 h ambulatory intraoesophageal pH measurement. Omeprazole, 40 mg b.i.d., for 3 months had no beneficial effect on any of the pulmonary parameters, despite its profound effect on acid reflux and improvement of reflux symptoms scores, compared to placebo. The results of this study do not support a role for intensive antireflux therapy to improve pulmonary symptoms and function in patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, who have severe airway hyperresponsiveness despite maintenance treatment with inhaled corticosteroids.