Icatibant. Attacks of hereditary angioedema: continue to use C1 esterase inhibitor

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Prescrire International 2010, 19 (110): 245-7
Hereditary angioedema is a severe genetic disorder due to C1 esterase inhibitor deficiency, which leads to an excess of bradykinin. It is characterised by attacks of subcutaneous or mucosal oedema, which can carry a risk of asphyxiation if the larynx is involved. The first-choice symptomatic treatment for attacks is intravenous C1 esterase inhibitor administration. Tranexamic acid is sometimes used. Icatibant, a decapeptide bradykinin B2 receptor antagonist, is now authorised in the European Union for use in this situation. We found no trials comparing icatibant versus C1 esterase inhibitor. The two principal clinical trials were both comparative trials, one versus tranexamic acid (74 patients), and the other versus placebo (56 patients). No mortality data were reported in either trial. Icatibant seemed to be more effective than tranexamic acid in relieving symptoms and also yielded a higher response rate. However, these positive results were not confirmed in the placebo-controlled trial. Both trials suffer from several biases, ruling out firm conclusions on the efficacy of icatibant, the trials were underpowered, some criteria were difficult to measure, the blinding was incomplete, and tranexamic acid was given at a lower dose than that recommended. The main adverse effects of icatibant are reactions at the injection site, which occur in almost all patients. A potential risk of cardiac disorders (especially angina) needs to be investigated. Subcutaneous administration of icatibant requires a large volume of solution (3 ml). In practice, in the absence of head-to-head comparisons, it remains to be shown whether or not icatibant has a better risk-benefit balance than C1 esterase inhibitor. Due to inconsistencies between the results and numerous biases in the two main clinical trials, the evidence supporting the efficacy of icatibant is weak. C1 esterase inhibitor remains the first-choice treatment for patients with acute attacks of hereditary angioedema.

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