Acute upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is a common medical emergency and associated with significant morbidly and mortality. The risk of bleeding from peptic ulceration and oesophagogastric varices can be reduced by appropriate primary and secondary preventative strategies. Helicobacter pylori eradication and risk stratification with appropriate gastroprotection strategies when used with antiplatelet drugs and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective in preventing peptic ulcer bleeding, whilst endoscopic screening and either nonselective beta blockade or endoscopic variceal ligation are effective at reducing the risk of variceal haemorrhage. For secondary prevention of variceal haemorrhage, the combination of beta blockade and endoscopic variceal ligation is more effective. Recent data on the possible interactions of aspirin and NSAIDs, clopidogrel and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and the increased risk of cardiovascular adverse events associated with all nonaspirin cyclo-oxygenase (COX) inhibitors have increased the complexity of choices for preventing peptic ulcer bleeding. Such choices should consider both the GI and cardiovascular risk profiles. In patients with a moderately increased risk of GI bleeding, a NSAID plus a PPI or a COX-2 selective agent alone appear equivalent but for those at highest risk of bleeding (especially those with previous ulcer or haemorrhage) the COX-2 inhibitor plus PPI combination is superior. However naproxen seems the safest NSAID for those at increased cardiovascular risk. Clopidogrel is associated with a significant risk of GI haemorrhage and the most recent data concerning the potential clinical interaction of clopidogrel and PPIs are reassuring. In clopidogrel-treated patients at highest risk of GI bleeding, some form of GI prevention is indicated.