Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 205-213

First online:

Preventing NSAID toxicity to the upper gastrointestinal tract

  • James M. ScheimanAffiliated withDivision of Gastroenterology, University of Michigan Medical Center

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Opinion statement

  • Prevention of gastrointestinal toxicity begins with the selection of an appropriate analgesic or anti-inflammatory agent. For conditions without inflammation, such as some cases of osteoarthritis, an analgesic with no risk for gastrointestinal toxicity is appropriate.

  • Risk factors for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-related complications include advanced age; history of ulcer disease or gastrointestinal bleeding; concomitant corticosteroid or anticoagulant use; use of high-dose or multiple NSAIDs; and certain chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. If an NSAID must be used in a patient with risk factors, the patient should receive the lowest-risk NSAID and, in most cases, co-therapy to reduce the risk for NSAID-associated ulcers and their complications.

  • The PGE1 prostaglandin analogue misoprostol is highly efficacious for the prevention of both gastric and duodenal ulcers and has also been shown to reduce the incidence of NSAID-induced ulcer complications. Side effects, such as diarrhea, may limit patient acceptance of the drug.

  • Acid suppression with traditional ulcer-healing doses of H2-blockers significantly reduces rates of duodenal ulcer but is ineffective in reducing gastric ulceration. More potent acid inhibition with double-dose H2-blockers reduces rates of both gastric and duodenal ulcers.

  • Proton-pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole, have been shown to prevent gastric and duodenal ulcers with an efficacy equal to that of misoprostol. They also reduce NSAID-related dyspepsia.

  • Specific cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors are associated with a markedly reduced rate of endoscopic ulcers. Very high-risk patients who receive these agents may still require co-therapy to prevent complications or reduce dyspepsia. This protocol may be changed by the results of long-term gastrointestinal outcome studies now underway.