A substantial body of studies (controlled, cohort and case-control studies) now confirm the long established impression that there is an increased prevalence of gastric and duodenal ulcer and of associated complications in subjects treated with aspirin (ASA) or with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The overall percentage of ulcers/erosions in patients treated with ASA ranges from 10 to 50% with a relative risk of bleeding ranging from 1.8 to 15%. The overall relative risk of ulcers/erosions in NSAIDs-treated subjects is around 3%, with complications detectable in 2.4% of cases. The risk of lesions and complications associated with ASA/NSAIDs is more marked in patients aged over 65, in those with a previous history of ulcer (both symptomatic and silent), in those treated with substantial doses or with combinations of NSAIDs and in those concomitantly using anticoagulants and/or steroids. The epidemiological data highlight the importance of implementing ASA/NSAIDs therapy only when strictly necessary as well as the advisability of adopting as broad a range of measures as possible to reduce the tissue-damaging effects of these pharmacological agents.