Anti-IgE for chronic asthma in adults and children

S Walker, M Monteil, K Phelan, T J Lasserson, E H Walters
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, (2): CD003559

BACKGROUND: Omalizumab is a recombinant humanised monoclonal antibody directed against immunoglobulin E (anti-IgE) to inhibit the immune system's response to allergen exposure. Omalizumab is directed against the binding site of IgE for its high affinity Fc receptor. It prevents free serum IgE from attaching to mast cells and other effector cells and prevents IgE mediated inflammatory changes.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the efficacy of anti-IgE compared with placebo in patients with allergic asthma

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Airways Group Asthma trials register for potentially relevant studies (February 2006).

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials examining anti-IgE administered in any manner for any duration. Trials with co-interventions were included as long as they were the same in each arm.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two reviewers independently assessed study quality and extracted and entered data. Three modes of administration were identified from the published literature (inhaled, intravenous and subcutaneous injection). Subgroup analysis was performed by asthma severity. Data were extracted from published and unpublished sources.

MAIN RESULTS: Fourteen trials (15 group comparisons) were included in the review, contributing a total of 3143 mild to severe allergic asthmatic participants with high levels of IgE. Treatment with intravenous and subcutaneous Omalizumab significantly reduced free IgE compared with placebo. Omalizumab led to a significant reduction in inhaled steroid (ICS) consumption compared with placebo (-119 mcg/day (95% CI -154 to -83, three trials)). There were significant increases in the number of participants who were able to reduce ICS by over 50% (odds ratio (OR) 2.50, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.02 to 3.10 (four trials)); or completely withdraw their daily ICS intake (OR 2.50 (95%CI 2.00 to 3.13; four trials)). Participants treated with Omalizumab were less likely to suffer an asthma exacerbation with treatment as an adjunct to ICS (OR 0.52, 95%CI 0.41 to 0.65, five trials), or as an ICS tapering agent (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.60, four trials).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Omalizumab was significantly more effective than placebo at increasing the numbers of patients who were able to reduce or withdraw their inhaled steroids, but the clinical value of the reduction in steroid consumption has be considered in the light of the high cost of Omalizumab. The impressive placebo effects observed in control groups bring into question the true effect of Omalizumab. Omalizumab was effective in reducing asthma exacerbations as an adjunctive therapy to inhaled steroids, and during steroid tapering phases of clinical trials. Omalizumab was generally well tolerated, although there were more injection site reactions with Omalizumab. Patient and physician assessments of the drug were positive. Further assessment in paediatric populations is necessary, as is direct double-dummy comparison with ICS.

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