Background : It is unclear what the best therapeutic approach is in patients who require non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In clinical practice, choice of prescriptions are often based on drug costs.

Aim : To evaluate costs per upper gastrointestinal bleeding avoided with different prevention strategies.

Methods : Two major strategies have been considered (coxibs vs. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs plus generic/brand gastroprotective agent). The number of patients needed to treat to prevent a bleeding event, the cost of the drug and duration of treatment were used to estimate costs.

Results : Based on hospitalization costs of a bleeding event, no therapeutic strategy is cost-effective in patients without risk factors. All strategies (including omeprazole + coxib) are cost-effective in patients with bleeding ulcer history. With other risk factors, all strategies are cost-effective but prevention of events is twice as expensive in patients <75 years of age. No strategy shows superiority unless the cheapest generics are prescribed or a 50% reduction in the incidence of lower gastrointestinal complications with coxibs is confirmed.

Conclusions : Current prevention strategies to reduce serious non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-associated gastrointestinal events are only cost-effective in patients with risk factors. No strategy shows superiority, but coxib strategy would be more cost-effective if it were associated with a reduction of events of the lower gastrointestinal tract.