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Med J Aust. 1991 Jul 1;155(1):20-6.

Use of H2-receptor antagonists in patients with dyspepsia and heartburn: a cost comparison.

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Gastroenterology Unit, Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, NSW.



Under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the use of H2-receptor antagonists (H2A) in the treatment of dyspepsia and heartburn is only subsidised when there is a proven diagnosis of ulcer. This study compared the costs of this Australian practice with a simulation of British practice, which allows unrestricted prescribing of subsidised H2A.


Patients with heartburn and/or dyspepsia were prospectively randomised to either a "British" group treated freely at the discretion of their general practitioner without necessarily being investigated or an "Australian" group where use of H2A was allowed only after gastroscopy or a barium meal had demonstrated a peptic ulcer or ulcerative oesophagitis. The patients were followed up for six months and all direct and indirect costs were recorded.


Forty-nine Sydney general practitioners recruited primary care patients for the study.


Any patient with heartburn or dyspepsia was considered for recruitment; 139 patients entered the study and 137 completed it.


The outcome measures were the costs of general practitioner consultations, specialist consultations, radiology and gastroscopy, other tests, H2A, other medications, personal costs, and total cost per patient.


The cumulative total cost per patient at the end of the study was equivalent in the "Australian" ($392) and "British" ($406) groups. A higher initial cost per patient of H2A in the "British" group was offset by a rapid decrease in the proportion that continued to use H2A and by the cost of specialist consultations and investigations in the "Australian" group.


Over a six-month period the cost of early investigation of heartburn and dyspepsia was equivalent to the cost of a therapeutic trial of H2A.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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