Highly selective inhibitors of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2i) were introduced to minimize peptic ulcers and their complications caused by dual COX inhibitors (COXi). Co-prescribing a (generally cheap) dual COXi with a gastroprotectant is an alternative strategy, proven to reduce the incidence of NSAID-associated endoscopic ulcers. This review compares the efficacies of these two strategies and makes some estimates of their relative cost-effectiveness. In standard risk patients, endoscopic ulcers are reduced to about the same extent (around 70-80%) by either co-prescribing omeprazole or lansoprazole with a dual COXi or preferring a COX-2i alone. COX-2i reduced ulcer complications by a weighted mean of around 60% in comparative studies with dual COXi. There is little information about the influence of PPI on this endpoint, although one study using H. pylori treatment as a possible surrogate for placebo intervention found 77% protection against recurrent upper gastrointestinal bleeding by co-administered omeprazole. One direct comparison of the two strategies in high-risk patients (recent ulcer bleed) found quite high rates of re-presentation with bleeding ulcer using either strategy, and the differences between them were not significant. Drug costs in four Western countries were compared for each strategy. In one, the costs were similar, but in the others the combination of a cheap dual COXi with omeprazole was usually more expensive than using a COX-2i. The safest strategy in highest risk patients may be to coprescribe a gastroprotectant with a COX-2i, with resulting higher drug costs but possibly offset by savings in other health costs. The efficacy and cost-benefit of this alternative approach warrants investigation.
Keywords: nsaids, cox-2 inhibitors, peptic ulcer, ulcer hemorrhage, proton pump inhibitors, histamine h2-receptor antagonists, misoprostol, cost-effectiveness
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