Gabapentin versus tricyclic antidepressants for diabetic neuropathy and post-herpetic Neuralgia

Discrepancies between direct and indirect meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials

Roger Chou, Susan Carson, Benjamin K S Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Previous systematic reviews concluded that tricyclics antidepressants are superior to gabapentin for neuropathic pain, but were based on indirect comparisons from placebo-controlled trials. To evaluate gabapentin versus tricyclic antidepressants for diabetic neuropathy and post-herpetic neuralgia, using direct and indirect comparisons. MEDLINE (1966 to March Week 4 2008), the Cochrane central register of controlled trials (1st quarter 2008), and reference lists. We selected randomized trials directly comparing gabapentin versus tricyclic antidepressants or comparing either of these medications versus placebo. Studies were reviewed, abstracted, and quality-rated by two independent investigators using predefined criteria. We performed a meta-analysis of head-to-head trials using a random effects model and compared the results to an adjusted indirect analysis of placebo-controlled trials. In three head-to-head trials, there was no difference between gabapentin and tricyclic antidepressants for achieving pain relief (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.29). In adjusted indirect analyses, gabapentin was worse than tricyclic antidepressants for achieving pain relief (RR∈=∈0.41, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.74). The discrepancy between direct and indirect analyses was statistically significant (p∈=∈0.008) . Placebo-controlled tricyclic trials were conducted earlier than the gabapentin trials, reported lower placebo response rates, had more methodological shortcomings, and were associated with funnel plot asymmetry. Though direct evidence is limited, we found no difference in likelihood of achieving pain relief between gabapentin and tricyclic antidepressants for diabetic neuropathy and post-herpetic neuralgia. Indirect analyses that combine data from sets of trials conducted in different eras can be unreliable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-188
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2009

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Diabetic Neuropathies
Tricyclic Antidepressive Agents
Neuralgia
Meta-Analysis
Randomized Controlled Trials
Placebos
Pain
gabapentin
MEDLINE
Research Personnel

Keywords

  • Gabapentin
  • Meta-analysis
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Tricyclic antidepressant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

Cite this

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title = "Gabapentin versus tricyclic antidepressants for diabetic neuropathy and post-herpetic Neuralgia: Discrepancies between direct and indirect meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials",
abstract = "Previous systematic reviews concluded that tricyclics antidepressants are superior to gabapentin for neuropathic pain, but were based on indirect comparisons from placebo-controlled trials. To evaluate gabapentin versus tricyclic antidepressants for diabetic neuropathy and post-herpetic neuralgia, using direct and indirect comparisons. MEDLINE (1966 to March Week 4 2008), the Cochrane central register of controlled trials (1st quarter 2008), and reference lists. We selected randomized trials directly comparing gabapentin versus tricyclic antidepressants or comparing either of these medications versus placebo. Studies were reviewed, abstracted, and quality-rated by two independent investigators using predefined criteria. We performed a meta-analysis of head-to-head trials using a random effects model and compared the results to an adjusted indirect analysis of placebo-controlled trials. In three head-to-head trials, there was no difference between gabapentin and tricyclic antidepressants for achieving pain relief (RR 0.99, 95{\%} CI 0.76 to 1.29). In adjusted indirect analyses, gabapentin was worse than tricyclic antidepressants for achieving pain relief (RR∈=∈0.41, 95{\%} CI 0.23 to 0.74). The discrepancy between direct and indirect analyses was statistically significant (p∈=∈0.008) . Placebo-controlled tricyclic trials were conducted earlier than the gabapentin trials, reported lower placebo response rates, had more methodological shortcomings, and were associated with funnel plot asymmetry. Though direct evidence is limited, we found no difference in likelihood of achieving pain relief between gabapentin and tricyclic antidepressants for diabetic neuropathy and post-herpetic neuralgia. Indirect analyses that combine data from sets of trials conducted in different eras can be unreliable.",
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