Many patients are receiving inadequate eradication therapy for Helicobacter pylori infection, according to analysis of a European registry.
In their analysis, published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, Olga P. Nyssen, BSc, PhD, of the Autonomous University of Madrid and colleagues discussed seven errors, which included prescribing a triple instead of quadruple regimen, prescribing therapy for too short of a duration, and prescribing a low dose of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
“[E]ven after more than 30 years of experience in H. pylori treatment, the ideal regimen to treat this infection remains undefined,” the investigators wrote. The European Registry on Helicobacter pylori management “represents a good mapping overview of the current situation regarding H. pylori management, allowing not only continuous assessment of the integration of clinical recommendations agreed on medical consensus, but also of the possible strategies for improvement.”
Patient data were drawn from registry-participating countries that each had more than 1,000 cases of H. pylori available; most came from Spain, followed by Russia, Italy, Slovenia, and Lithuania. Of these patients, data for 26,340 patients were analyzed, which ultimately represented 80% of the total registry from 2013 to 2019.
The first mistake discussed in the paper regarded use of less-effective triple therapies (typically PPI plus two antibiotics); one review showed that these regimens fail in 20%-40% of cases. Increasing antibiotic resistances have only worsened the success rate. According to this study, a triple regimen was given as first-line treatment in 46% of cases. Overall, frequency of triple-therapy prescriptions decreased from more than 50% in 2013 to about 40% in 2019. More significant improvements in this area were achieved in Spain, where use of triple therapies decreased from 24% in 2014 to 0% in 2019. According to the investigators, this finding serves as a “paradigmatic example of improvement with time.”
The authors pointed out that “overwhelming evidence” supports 14-day treatment; however, 69% of triple-therapy durations and 58% of quadruple therapy cases were for 7 or 10 days. Triple therapy at this duration showed only 81% cure rate, while it was 88% with 14 days, and quadruple therapy was only 80% effective at 7-10 days but 90% effective at 14 days.
“Fortunately,” the investigators wrote, “this mistake was progressively found less frequently and, at present, the prescription of 7-day standard triple therapy regimens has almost disappeared.”
The authors noted acid suppression via PPIs improves cure rates: In one meta-analysis, the cure rate of triple therapy regimens increased by 6%-10% with high doses of PPIs. However, the current study found that 48% of triple therapies included low-dose PPIs. This number decreased over time, the authors noted: from 67% in 2013 to 20% in 2019.
“From another perspective, the daily PPI dose has increased from a dose equivalent to 54 mg of omeprazole in 2013 to 104 mg in 2019,” they wrote.
The other four errors they discussed were failing to adequately consider penicillin allergies in prescription choices, failing to consider the importance of treatment compliance, repeating certain antibiotics after failures, and not checking eradication success after treatment.
Based on these findings, Nyssen and colleagues suggested that “penetration of recommendations in the participating European countries is still poor and delayed, even though some improvements from guidelines have been partially incorporated.”
According to Grigorios I. Leontiadis, MD, PhD, of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont., who coauthored the 2017 American College of Gastroenterology H. pylori management guidelines and the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology “Toronto Consensus” in 2016, “This study is important and timely given the steadily increasing antibiotic resistance of H. pylori worldwide.”
Although Leontiadias described the results as “suboptimal,” he was partially reassured by the improvements over time, “especially following publication of the 2016 European clinical practice guidelines.” He also noted that some older clinical practice guidelines issued conditional recommendations, which could “justify the lower adherence seen in the early period of this study.”
“The unanswered question,” Leontiadias went on, “is whether the practice of gastroenterologists who volunteered to participate in this prospective registry is truly representative of how H. pylori is managed in Europe. Most likely it isn’t. Nonparticipating gastroenterologists and nongastroenterologist health care practitioners are probably less aware of and less adherent to clinical practice guidelines. This means that the actual situation in the real world is probably grimmer than what this study shows.”
William D. Chey, MD, Nostrant Collegiate Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, considered the results “not entirely surprising, but nonetheless, noteworthy.”
Chey noted that the United States lacks a similar registry to compare real-world H. pylori management; even so, he suggested several findings that “bear reiteration” for clinicians in the United States.
“U.S. providers should consider regimens other than clarithromycin triple therapy when treating H. pylori infection,” Chey said. “Since U.S. providers do not have reliable data on H. pylori antimicrobial resistance, it is useful to ask about prior macrolide antibiotic exposure, and if a patient has received a macrolide for any reason, clarithromycin triple therapy should be avoided. Bismuth quadruple therapy remains a reliable first-line treatment option in the U.S. Another recently approved first-line treatment option is the combination of a proton pump inhibitor, rifabutin, and amoxicillin. Treatment regimens in the U.S. should be given for a minimum of 10 days and, preferably, for 14 days. Another point made by the article is that providers should be maximizing gastric acid suppression by using higher doses of proton pump inhibitors when treating H. pylori.”
Chey also noted an emerging treatment option that could soon be available. “Results from phase 3 trials in North America and Europe with the potassium-competitive acid blocker vonoprazan combined with amoxicillin, with and without clarithromycin, are expected in 2021 and may provide another novel first-line treatment option.”
Nyssen and colleagues disclosed relationships with Allergan, Mayoly, Janssen, and others. Chey is a consultant for Redhill, Phathom, and Takeda. Leontiadias disclosed no conflicts of interest.