A Community Screening Program for Helicobacter pylori Saves Money: 10-Year Follow-up of a Randomized Controlled Trial
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BACKGROUND & AIMS: Population screening and treatment of Helicobacter pylori has been advocated as a means of reducing mortality from gastric cancer, as well as dyspepsia and dyspepsia-related resource use. Previous programs have failed to demonstrate a significant effect on mortality or resource use, but follow-up was only for 1 or 2 years. We aimed to determine the effect of screening for H pylori on dyspepsia and dyspepsia-related resource use over 10 years. METHODS: H pylori-positive individuals, aged 40-49 years, enrolled in a community screening program, randomized to eradication therapy or placebo in 1994, were sent a validated dyspepsia questionnaire by mail 10 years later, and primary care records were reexamined. Consultation, referral, prescribing, and investigation data related to dyspepsia were extracted. United Kingdom costs were applied to derive total cost per person (1 pound = 1.8 dollars). RESULTS: Of 2324 original participants, 1864 (80%) were traced and contacted. Of these, 1086 (47%) responded, and 919 (40%) agreed to a review of their primary care records. There was a 10-year mean saving in total dyspepsia-related costs of 117 dollars per person (95% confidence interval [CI] = 11 dollars-220 dollars, P = .03) with eradication therapy. Those symptomatic at baseline showed a nonsignificant trend toward resolution of symptoms at 10 years with eradication therapy (relative risk of remaining symptomatic, 0.89; 95% CI: 0.77-1.03). CONCLUSIONS: There were significant reductions in total dyspepsia-related health care costs. The savings made were greater than the initial cost of H pylori screening and treatment.
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