Aim: To define prescribing patterns for symptomatic dyspeptic patients in a cross-section of general practitioners in Leeds, United Kingdom.
Methods: Nine general practitioners from a range of practices took part in a prospective observational study of prescribing patterns for dyspepsia. All consultations with symptomatic dyspeptic patients were recorded over a 4-month period. Symptoms were recorded as ulcer-like, reflux-like, or nonspecific, and details of recent therapy, previous investigations and any prescription issued were noted.
Results: 257 consecutive consultations were recorded (new patients 23%, consulted before but not investigated 33%, previously investigated 44%). 93% of consultations resulted in a prescription (antacids 24%, prokinetic/motility agent 8%, H2-receptor antagonist 36%, proton pump inhibitor 24%, Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy 8%). 42.5% of new patients received an acid-suppressing drug as first-line therapy, of which only 32% had tried over-the-counter remedies. Symptom-type (ulcer-like, reflux-like or nonspecific) significantly influenced choice of empiric therapy (P < 0.001), though prescribing was still variable. Although around 60% of patients with previously negative investigations or only minor disease received acid-suppressing drugs, such patients were six times more likely to receive 'less potent' treatments (no prescription, antacid or motility agent) than those with known acid-peptic disease (odds ratio 6.23, P < 0.01). Only 30% of patients with previously documented peptic ulcer received H. pylori eradication therapy, yet patients with a wide range of other diagnoses received this form of treatment.
Conclusions: Management guidelines may help to promote a more consistent and selective use of newer treatments, and promote more cost-effective patient care.