A systematic review and meta-analysis on the safety and efficacy of febuxostat versus allopurinol in chronic gout

Labib I Faruque, Arash Ehteshami-Afshar, Natasha Wiebe, Lisa Tjosvold, Joanne Homik, Marcello Tonelli
Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism 2013, 43 (3): 367-75

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of febuxostat compared to allopurinol for the treatment of chronic gout.

METHODS: We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized and non-randomized controlled trials that compared oral febuxostat to oral allopurinol for treatment of chronic gout. Two reviewers independently selected studies, assessed study quality, and extracted data. Risk ratios (RR) were calculated with random effects and were reported with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI).

RESULTS: From 1076 potentially relevant citations, 7 studies and 25 associated publications met inclusion criteria; 5 studies were ultimately included in the analysis. Febuxostat did not reduce the risk of gout flares compared with allopurinol (RR = 1.16, 95% CI = 1.03-1.30, I(2) = 44%). Overall, the risk of any adverse event was lower in febuxostat recipients compared to allopurinol (RR = 0.94, 95% CI = 0.90-0.99, I(2) = 13%). Patients receiving febuxostat were more likely to achieve a serum uric acid of <6 mg/dl than allopurinol recipients (RR = 1.56, 95% CI = 1.22-2.00, I(2) = 92%). Subgroup analysis did not indicate any significant difference between high- and low-dose febuxostat on the risk of gout flares.

CONCLUSION: Although febuxostat was associated with higher likelihood of achieving a target serum uric acid level of <6 mg/dl, there was significant heterogeneity in the pooled results. There was no evidence that febuxostat is superior to allopurinol for clinically relevant outcomes. Given its higher cost, febuxostat should not be routinely used for chronic gout.

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