Proton pump inhibitors reduce ulcer recurrence in non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) users, but their impact in at-risk ulcer-free patients using the current spectrum of prescribed agents has not been clearly defined. We assessed esomeprazole for ulcer prevention in at-risk patients (≥60 yr and/or ulcer history) taking NSAIDs, including COX-2 inhibitors. Such studies are particularly relevant, given that concerns regarding adverse cardiovascular outcomes among COX-2 inhibitor users may prompt re-evaluation of their use.
We conducted two similar double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, multicenter studies; VENUS (United States) and PLUTO (multinational). A total of 844 and 585 patients requiring daily NSAIDs, including COX-2 inhibitors were randomized to receive esomeprazole (20 or 40 mg) or placebo, daily for 6 months.
In the VENUS study, the life table estimated proportion of patients who developed ulcers over 6 months (primary variable, intent-to-treat population) was 20.4% on placebo, 5.3% on esomeprazole 20 mg (p
< 0.001), and 4.7% on esomeprazole 40 mg (p
< 0.0001). In the PLUTO study, the values were 12.3% on placebo, 5.2% with esomeprazole 20 mg (p
= 0.018), and 4.4% with esomeprazole 40 mg (p
= 0.007). Significant reductions were observed for users of both non-selective NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors. Pooled ulcer rates for patients using COX-2 inhibitors (n = 400) were 16.5% on placebo, 0.9% on esomeprazole 20 mg (p
< 0.001) and 4.1% on esomeprazole 40 mg (p
= 0.002). Esomeprazole was well tolerated and associated with better symptom control than placebo.
For at-risk patients, esomeprazole was effective in preventing ulcers in long-term users of NSAIDs, including COX-2 inhibitors.