The Rate of Prescribing Gastrointestinal Prophylaxis with Either a Proton Pump Inhibitor or an H2-Receptor Antagonist in Nova Scotia Seniors Starting Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug Therapy

Authors: 
Bogdan Superceanu, Sander Veldhuyzen van Zanten, Chris Skedgel, Michael Shepherd, Ingrid Sketris
Research Summary: 

Background
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are widely used agents that can cause serious gastrointestinal (GI) side effects. For patients at increased risk of NSAID-related GI complications, prophylaxis with either a nonselective NSAID plus gastroprotective agent (GPA) or, alternatively, therapy with a cyclooxygenase-2 selective inhibitor with or without a GPA such as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), is recommended.

Aim
To describe the rate, timing and duration of GI prophylaxis in Nova Scotia seniors receiving nonselective NSAIDs.

Methods
The Nova Scotia Seniors’ Pharmacare Program beneficiaries for the years 1998 to 2002 were studied. A cohort of incident NSAID and GPA users was selected from all nonselective NSAID users (no prescribed NSAID dispensed 12 months before the index month and no GPA dispensed two months before the index prescription). Monthly coprescribing rates were calculated by dividing the number of patients in the cohort using GPAs by the number of NSAID users. GI prophylactic coprescribing was defined as the coprescribing rate present at the first month (index month) of prescribing an NSAID.

Results
The cohort consisted of 12,906 patients. Seventy-five per cent of the nonselective NSAID prescriptions dispensed were for up to two months duration, with only 2.3% longer than one year. GI prophylaxis was given to only 3.8% of patients starting NSAIDs who were not on a GPA in the two months before starting NSAIDs. Of this 3.8%, 92.7% of the patients received H2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs), and 7% received PPIs. The rate of H2RA coprescribing increased with the number of consecutive months on an NSAID from 3.5% in the first month to 24.1% at 48 months. For PPIs, the coprescribing rate increased from 0.3% to 1.9% of all NSAID users in the cohort. The rate of gastroprophylaxis coprescribing for patients receiving NSAIDs did not rise with increasing age.

Conclusion
In Nova Scotian seniors using nonselective NSAIDs, the rate of GI prophylaxis was low. Most patients received H2RAs as GPAs despite evidence that they offer insufficient protection.