To estimate gastrointestinal (GI) health care resource use and direct costs associated with prescription nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in an elderly population.
Using the Government of Quebec's health insurance database, we obtained the medical, pharmaceutical, and demographic records of 73,850 senior citizens who, between 1993 and 1997, had either an NSAID or an acetaminophen prescription dispensed. The date of their first dispensed prescription for an NSAID or acetaminophen was termed their index date. Patients who were not taking oral corticosteroids or anticoagulants at their index date, were not diagnosed with cancer at their index date, and were not hospitalized and did not have any GI events during the year prior to their index date were included in the study. Patients who had a dispensed NSAID prescription at their index date formed the NSAID cohort; the others formed the acetaminophen cohort. All patients were followed up for 2 years. The daily direct costs of GI events incurred during NSAID therapy by the NSAID cohort were compared with those incurred during a similar followup period by the acetaminophen cohort. The difference in these average daily costs was attributed to NSAID use.
The NSAID cohort included 5,268 senior citizens and the acetaminophen cohort 2,245. More GI adverse events were observed in the NSAID cohort (odds ratio 2.48, 95% confidence interval 2.06, 3.00). The average daily direct cost of GI events for a day of NSAID therapy attributed to the NSAIDs was $0.84 (Canadian). On average, for each Canadian dollar spent on NSAIDs, an additional $0.66 was spent on their side effects.
Safer alternatives to NSAIDs would significantly reduce medical care costs for patients in need of NSAID therapy.