This study assesses the economic benefits of misoprostol in the prophylaxis of gastric ulcers larger than 0.3 cm in patients with osteoarthritis receiving non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Independent epidemiological data were obtained for patients in Scotland and the West Midlands. Co-diagnosis of arthritis with gastric ulcer recorded in the routine data was substantially less (4% Scotland, 10% West Midlands) than the 21% found at case review. These data were combined with cost and patient management data in a decision analysis model to explore whether prophylactic use of misoprostol altered substantially the average cost of managing gastric ulcer. Using conservative assumptions and a daily dose of 400 micrograms, cost savings per patient to the National Health Service of 5-8 pounds over a 3-month period are expected in the groups of patients studied, while at the 800 micrograms dose there would be a net cost of 23-25 pounds. Sensitivity analysis showed that under many assumptions misoprostol is expected to be cost saving or cost neutral.
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