Objective: Major upper gastrointestinal bleeding (UGIB) is the most important adverse effect of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Alcoholic beverages also precipitate UGIB. This analysis was conducted to evaluate whether the deleterious effects of NSAIDs are further increased among drinkers.
Methods: An interview-based, case-control study was conducted in the U.S. and Sweden; 1224 patients hospitalized with acute major UGIB due to newly occurring peptic ulcer or gastritis were compared to 2945 neighbor controls.
Results: Compared with those who drank less than one drink/wk, the relative risk of acute UGIB increased with increasing alcohol consumption, rising to 2.8 among those who drank > or = 21 drinks/wk. Among current drinkers, the relative risk of acute UGIB due to the use of aspirin was raised at all levels of alcohol consumption; the estimate for aspirin taken at least every other day (regular use) at doses of > 325 mg among all current drinkers combined was 7.0; for regular use at lower doses, the corresponding estimate was 2.8, and for any occasional use, it was 2.4. All estimates were statistically significant. Data for ibuprofen were more limited, but the relative risk estimates did not appear to vary consistently with level of alcohol consumption. For regular use (all doses combined), the estimate among all drinkers combined was significantly elevated, at 2.7; occasional ibuprofen use was not associated with UGIB (1.2). There were insufficient data to evaluate other NSAIDs according to alcohol consumption.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that acute UGIB is similarly associated with the use of the two most common nonprescription NSAIDs, aspirin and ibuprofen, at all levels of alcohol consumption. As heavy alcohol intake independently increases the risk, the incidence of UGIB is highest among persons who are both heavy drinkers and users of aspirin or ibuprofen.