Although ulcers are often associated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) little is known about the feasibility of predicting their development in patients taking NSAIDs. In addition, the ulcerogenic potentials of the newer NSAIDs, taken on long term basis, have not been compared with those of more established preparations. The aim of this study was to identify the clinical and pathological characteristics of patients at a higher risk of NSAID induced ulcers, measure the ulcerogenic potential of a variety of NSAIDs, and test the effect of these potentials on the predictability of ulceration. Altogether 190 long term NSAID users were studied. The presence of abdominal complaints, previous history of ulcers, arthritis related physical disability, anaemia, gastritis, and Helicobacter pylori status were all assessed as possible risk factors. NSAIDs were classified into established drugs (group I), and newer agents (group II). Group I included naproxen, indomethacin, diclofenac, ketoprofen, piroxicam, and flurbiprofen. Group II included fenbufen, nabumetone, ibuprofen, etodolac, azapropazone, and tiaprofenic acid. Of 63 ulcers identified in the study group, 51 (81%) were seen in group I NSAID patients (51 of 132, 39%) compared with 12 ulcers in group II (12 of 58, 21%), p < 0.02; estimated relative risk (ERR): 2.41). In group I, 25 ulcers were found in 38 patients with abdominal pain (25 of 38, 66%, p < 0.01, ERR: 5.03); 18 in 25 (72%) patients with a previous history of ulcers (p < 0.001, ERR: 5.77), 26 in 44 (59%) patients with debilitating arthritis (p < 0.001, ERR 3.64), and 35 in 73 (48%) patients with H pylori associated gastritis (p < 0.01, ERR: 2.48). The presence of these factors in group II patients did not influence the risk of ulceration. Group I NSAIDs were more likely to be associated with chemical gastritis and to intensify H pylori related damage. Although silent ulcers are not uncommon in patients taking NSAIDs, recognition of the risk factors might helps predict a significant number (up to 81%), especially in those receiving group I NSAIDs.
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