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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 14 (2000), Issue 5, Pages 379-388
Original Article

Test-and-Treat Strategies for Helicobacter pylori in Uninvestigated Dyspepsia: A Canadian Economic Anaylsis

John K Marshall,1,2 David Armstrong,1 and Bernie J O’Brien2,3

1Department of Medicine (Division of Gastroenterology), McMaster University, Canada
2Department of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, McMaster University, Canada
3Centre for Evaluation of Medicines, St Joseph’s Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Received 7 May 1999; Revised 10 October 1999

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Recognition of the pivotal role of Helicobacter pylori in the pathogenesis of peptic ulcer disease has revolutionized primary care approaches to dyspepsia. Decision analysis was used to compare the cost effectiveness of empirical ranitidine with a test and treat strategy using either H pylori serology or the 13carbon-urea breath test (13C-UBT).

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A cohort of patients under age 50 years presenting with uninvestigated dyspepsia was evaluated. Three initial strategies were compared with respect to direct medical costs and effectiveness in curing H pylori-related ulcers - empirical ranitidine, H pylori serology and UBT. A one-year time horizon and third-party payer perspective were adopted in a Canadian health care setting.

RESULTS: UBT was more costly than either serology or ranitidine but was the most effective strategy and required the fewest endoscopies. No strategy demonstrated dominance over another in the base case. The incremental cost effectiveness ratio (ICER) of serology versus ranitidine was $118/cure, and sensitivity analysis induced dominance of serology in several plausible scenarios. The baseline ICER of UBT versus serology was $885/cure but showed substantial variation in sensitivity analysis. Each ICER was highly sensitive to variation in the cost of the tests themselves. At a serology cost of $25, UBT became dominant when its cost fell to $39.

CONCLUSIONS: In low risk patients with uninvestigated dyspepsia, testing for H pylori using serology appears to be economically attractive. 13C-UBT may be a cost effective alternative to serology if local conditions closely approximate the model parameters. Future changes in the costs of serology and 13C-UBT may determine the optimal approach.