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A systematic review on the cost effectiveness of prophylactic treatments of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) induced gastropathy in patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis was conducted. Two reviewers conducted the literature search and the review. Both full and partial economic evaluations published in English, Dutch, or German were included. The criteria list published in the textbook of Drummond was used to determine the quality of the economic evaluations. The methodological quality of three randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in which the economic evaluations obtained probability estimates of NSAID induced gastropathy and adverse events was assessed by a list of internal validity criteria. The conclusions were based on a rating system consisting of four levels of evidence.
Ten economic evaluations were included; three were based on RCTs. All evaluations studied misoprostol as prophylactic treatment: in one evaluation misoprostol was studied as a fixed component in a combination with diclofenac (Arthrotec). All economic evaluations comprised analytical studies containing a decision tree. The three trials were of high methodological quality. Nine economic evaluations were considered high quality and one economic evaluation was considered of low methodological quality. There is strong evidence (level "A") that the use of misoprostol for the prevention of NSAID induced gastropathy is cost effective, and limited evidence (level "C") that the use of Arthrotec is cost effective. Although the levels of evidence used in this review are arbitrary, it is believed that a qualitative analysis is useful: quantitative analyses in this field are hampered by the heterogeneity of economic evaluations. Existing criteria to evaluate the methodological quality of economic evaluations may need refinement for use in systematic reviews.