Background: Whether Helicobacter pylori increases the risk of ulcers in patients taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is controversial. We hypothesised that eradication of H pylori infection would reduce the risk of ulcers for patients starting long-term NSAID treatment.
Methods: Patients were enrolled if they were NSAID naïve, had a positive urea breath test, had dyspepsia or an ulcer history, and required long-term NSAID treatment. They were randomly assigned omeprazole triple therapy (eradication group) or omeprazole with placebo antibiotics (placebo group) for 1 week. All patients were given diclofenac slow release 100 mg daily for 6 months from randomisation. Endoscopy was done at 6 months or if severe dyspepsia or gastrointestinal bleeding occurred. The primary endpoint was the probability of ulcers within 6 months. Analyses were by intention to treat.
Findings: Of 210 arthritis patients screened, 128 (61%) were positive for H pylori. 102 patients were enrolled, and 100 were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. H pylori was eradicated in 90% of the eradication group and 6% of the placebo group. Five of 51 eradication-group patients and 15 of 49 placebo-group patients had ulcers. The 6-month probability of ulcers was 12.1% (95% CI 3.1-21.1) in the eradication group and 34.4% (21.1-47.7) in the placebo group (p=0.0085). The corresponding 6-month probabilities of complicated ulcers were 4.2% (1.3-9.7) and 27.1% (14.7-39.5; p=0.0026).
Interpretation: Screening and treatment for H pylori infection significantly reduces the risk of ulcers for patients starting long-term NSAID treatment.