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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Pharmacological treatment other than corticosteroids, intravenous immunoglobulin and plasma exchange for Guillain-Barré syndrome

Richard A C Hughes, Jane Pritchard, Robert D M Hadden
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013 February 28, (2): CD008630
23450584

BACKGROUND: Plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulin, but not corticosteroids, are beneficial in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). The efficacy of other pharmacological agents is unknown. This review was first published in 2011 and this update in 2013. 

OBJECTIVES: To review systematically the evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) for pharmacological agents other than plasma exchange, intravenous immunoglobulin and corticosteroids.

SEARCH METHODS: On 28 August 2012, we searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Specialized Register CENTRAL (2012, Issue 8 in The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE (January 1966 to August 2012) and EMBASE (January 1980 to August 2012) for treatments for GBS. We considered evidence from non-randomised studies in the Discussion.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included all randomised or quasi-RCTs of acute (within four weeks from onset) GBS of all types, ages and degrees of severity. We discarded trials which only tested corticosteroids, intravenous immunoglobulin or plasma exchange. We included other pharmacological treatments or combinations of treatments compared with no treatment, placebo treatment or another treatment.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Change in disability after four weeks was the primary outcome. Two authors checked references and extracted data independently. One author entered and another checked data in Review Manager (RevMan). We assessed risk of bias according to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. We calculated mean differences and risk ratios with their 95% confidence intervals. We assessed strength of evidence with GradePro software.

MAIN RESULTS: Only very low quality evidence was found for four different interventions. This update of the review found no new trials. One RCT with 13 participants showed no significant difference in any outcome between interferon beta-1a and placebo. Another with 10 participants showed no significant difference in any outcome between brain-derived neurotrophic factor and placebo. A third with 37 participants showed no significant difference in any outcome between cerebrospinal fluid filtration and plasma exchange. In a fourth with 20 participants, the risk ratio of improving by one or more disability grades after eight weeks was significantly greater with the Chinese herbal medicine tripterygium polyglycoside than with corticosteroids (risk ratio 1.47; 95% confidence interval 1.02 to 2.11). Serious adverse events were uncommon with each of these treatments and not significantly commoner in the treated than the control groups.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The quality of the evidence was very low. Three small RCTs, of interferon beta-1a, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and cerebrospinal fluid filtration, showed no significant benefit or harm. A fourth small trial showed that the Chinese herbal medicine tripterygium polyglycoside hastened recovery significantly more than corticosteroids but this result needs confirmation. It was not possible to draw useful conclusions from the few observational studies.

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