A significant number of the 8.5 million patients with osteoarthritis in the UK are not being sufficiently protected against the potential side-effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), according to the findings of two surveys published by AstraZeneca.

The survey, which involved more than 2,000 GPs, showed that 43% of patients with osteoarthritis are not being offered protection against the potentially serious gastrointestinal side effects associated with the class of painkillers, while just 18% of patients taking part (1,000) said they were offered gastro-protection only after complaining of symptoms such as heartburn or dyspepsia.  

Interestingly, it was revealed that while National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and National Prescribing Centre guidelines recommend that doctors prescribe a gastro-protective proton pump inhibitor alongside an NSAID, the majority of GPs - 65% - cite NICE as being the key influencer of how they manage the disease, which suggests that its guidelines are not filtering through properly.

The surveys also provide evidence to suggest that the pain element of the osteoporosis is not being treated adequately, as 26% of patients interviewed reported not being satisfied with their treatment, 50% thought their pain is worsening, and almost half said they were in pain every day.

The findings are particularly pertinent given that the incidence of osteoarthritis - which is already estimated to cost the National Health Service a whopping £70 million a year - is on the rise with the ageing population, and the disease expected to become the fourth leading cause of disability by 2030, the drugmaker noted.

Vimovo launch

Alongside the surveys' results AstraZeneca also announced the launch of its new osteoarthritis therapy Vimovo - a combination of the NSAID naproxen and the PPI esomeprazole - throughout the country.

It's twice-daily pill is approved for the symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis in patients at risk from NSAID-associated gastric and/or duodenal ulcers and where treatment with lower doses of naproxen (or other NSAIDs) is not sufficient, and the group is hoping that the availability of this new combination will address a seemingly unmet need by offering pain relief and gastro-protection in all in one. 

European clearance of Vimovo was based in part based on data from two late-stage trials, PN400-301 and PN400-302, which shoed that at-risk patients taking Vimovo experienced significantly fewer endoscopic gastric ulcers (5.6%) compared to those receiving enteric-coated naproxen (23.7%).