Cost-effectiveness and long-term impact of Helicobacter pylori ???test and treat??? service in reducing open access endoscopy referrals
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INTRODUCTION: We have shown that the introduction of a carbon urea breath test (13C-UBT) service for Helicobacter pylori screening and eradication is effective in reducing the rate of open access endoscopy referrals in patients aged < 40 years in the short term. This has been substantiated by several randomized controlled trials comparing a 'test and treat' strategy with early endoscopy in these patients. However, the long-term impact of such a strategy is not established. OBJECTIVE: To ascertain the influence of 13C-UBT services on open access endoscopy referral rates in dyspeptic patients under the age of 40 years over a period of 5 years. METHODS: Retrospective analysis of open access endoscopy referral rates between August 1990 and July 2000. Cost minimization analysis was performed with a Decision Analysis Model using Treeage Data 3.5. RESULTS: The total number of open access referrals for endoscopy during 1990-1995 was between 765 and 1325 per year. The proportion of endoscopies performed in patients < 40 years ranged between 33.4% and 34.6%. The total number of endoscopy referrals during 1995-2000 after the introduction of the 13C-UBT services was between 1178 and 1321 per year. However, there was a sustained reduction in the proportion of patients aged < 40 years, ranging between 23.2% and 26.2% (Chi2 = 153.9, degrees of freedom = 9, P < 0.0001) during this period. CONCLUSIONS: The H. pylori screening and treatment strategy using the 13C-UBT service results in a sustained reduction of the number of endoscopy referrals and is cost effective in dyspeptic patients under the age of 40 years, enabling better utilization of available resources.
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