Background: Cost-effectiveness analysis, Helicobacter pylori research and the development of proton pump inhibitors are having an increasing impact on the management of dyspepsia. However, clinical trials have not always included both H. pylori diagnosis and proton pump inhibitors in their protocols.
Methods: Patients who were referred for upper gastrointestinal endoscopy by their general practitioner were randomized to either prompt endoscopy followed by directed medical treatment (conventional group, n=38), or to empirical treatment with omeprazole and, in the case of symptom relapse, serological screening for H. pylori infection followed by eradication therapy in seropositive patients (empirical group, n=42). The study lasted for up to 1 year.
Results: In the empirical group, only 13 patients (31%) underwent endoscopy. The average number of days for which the patients kept records of their dyspeptic symptoms was 266 (95% CI: 226-307) in the empirical group, of which 166 (95% CI: 128-204) were symptom-free. In the conventional group, 159 (95% CI: 119-198) out of 255 days (95% CI: 209-302) were recorded as symptom-free. The average medical cost in the empirical group was $284 (95% CI: 218-350) and in the conventional group $491 (95% CI: 383-600). In the empirical group, two malignancies were found, whereas in the conventional group one malignancy was found.
Conclusions: The empirical drug treatment strategy in patients with persistent dyspeptic symptoms resulted in 69% fewer diagnostic endoscopies with lower medical costs and equal effectiveness in the first year, compared to prompt endoscopy followed by directed medical treatment.