Guidelines recommend Helicobacter pylori (HP) testing and treatment for patients with a history of peptic ulcer disease (PUD), assuming that PUD has been documented and that successful HP eradication would eliminate the need for further therapy and medical utilization.
An open-label, randomized controlled trial in a managed care setting evaluated the clinical outcome and costs of an HP test-and-treat (T & T) strategy in 650 patients receiving long-term acid suppression therapy for physician-diagnosed PUD. Patients were randomized to T & T for HP (n = 321) or to usual care (n = 329). Outcome measures included presence and severity of PUD symptoms, use of acid-reducing medication, and acid-peptic–related health care costs during 12-month follow-up.
Only 17% of study participants had PUD confirmed by radiography or endoscopy; only 38% of the T & T group tested positive for HP. At 12 months, patients in the T & T group were less likely to report ulcerlike dyspepsia or use of acid-reducing medication; however, 75% of the T & T group used acid-reducing medication during the second half of the 12-month follow-up. In the 12 months after randomization, the T & T group had higher total acid-peptic–related costs than the usual care group.
Most patients receiving long-term acid suppression therapy for physician-diagnosed PUD in community practice settings are likely to have HP-negative, uninvestigated dyspepsia. Routine testing and treating for HP will not reduce acid-peptic–related costs and have only a modest (though statistically significant) effect in reducing clinical symptoms and use of acid-reducing medications.