Background A number of tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) antagonists (anti-TNFα) are available to treat rheumatoid arthritis. All of these have demonstrated considerable efficacy in placebo controlled trials, but few head-to-head comparisons exist to date. This work's objective is to estimate the relative efficacy among licensed anti-TNFs in patients who have had an inadequate response to methotrexate (MTX). Different outcome measures are used to highlight the advantages of continuous measures in such analyses.
Methods A systematic review identified randomised controlled trials comparing the efficacy of licensed anti-TNFα agents with placebo at 24 weeks in patients who have had an inadequate response to MTX. Relative efficacy was estimated using Bayesian mixed treatment comparison (MTC) models. Three different outcome measures were used: RR of achieving an American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 20 and ACR50 response and the percentage improvement in Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) score.
Results 16 published trials were included in the analysis. All anti-TNFs show considerably improved efficacy over placebo. The MTC results also provide evidence of some differences in efficacy of the TNFα antagonists. Etanercept appears superior to infliximab and golimumab, and certolizumab to infliximab and adalimumab. ACR results indicate improved efficacy of certolizumab over golimumab. On HAQ analysis, adalimumab, certolizumab, etanercept and golimumab appear superior to infliximab, and etanercept shows improved efficacy compared with adalimumab.
Conclusions There are differences in efficacy among the TNFα antagonists. In a MTC, a continuous outcome measure has more strength to detect such differences than a binomial outcome measure because of its enhanced sensitivity to change.
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Competing interests OF has received research grants from Abbott Immunology Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer and Merck and is a speaker for UCB Pharma, Pfizer, MSD and Abbott Immunology Pharmaceuticals.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.