Pirfenidone, nintedanib and N-acetylcysteine for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Paola Rogliani, Luigino Calzetta, Francesco Cavalli, Maria Gabriella Matera, Mario Cazzola
Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2016, 40: 95-103

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is increasing every year. Pirfenidone and nintedanib were approved for treatment of IPF in 2014, but they received only a conditional recommendation for use and, thus, to date no drugs are strongly recommended for IPF. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness and safety of the currently approved drugs for IPF and N-acetylcysteine (NAC), the most debated drug in the last update of guidelines for IPF treatment.

METHODS: RCTs in IPF were identified searching from databases of published and unpublished studies. The influence of pirfenidone, nintedanib and NAC on clinical outcomes, safety, and mortality was assessed via pair-wise meta-analysis.

RESULTS: Ten papers (3847 IPF patients; 2254 treated; 1593 placebo) were included in this study. Our results showed that both pirfenidone and nintedanib, but not NAC, were significantly effective in reducing FVC decline and the risk of FVC ≥10% decline in percent predicted over 12 months. Nintenadib significantly protected against the risk of acute exacerbation and mortality. Pirfenidone and nintedanib showed a similar and good safety profile, whereas NAC provided a signal for increased adverse events.

CONCLUSIONS: The rank of effectiveness emerging from this meta-analysis represents an indirect indicator of potential differences between currently approved doses of pirfenidone and nintedanib. Direct comparisons are necessary to assess this matter, and well designed bench-to-bedside studies would permit to understand the potential of combined, sequential, or adjunctive treatment regimens in which perhaps NAC may have a role for specific clusters of IPF patients.

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