A review of network meta-analysis comparing biologics in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

G. Gigliucci, U. Massafra, B. Frediani, A. De Cata, L. Gallelli, D. Integlia, G. Picarelli, A. Migliore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


– OBJECTIVE: Even though in recent years significant improvements have been made in the management of patients with rheumatoid arthritis due to the introduction of biologic agents, it is still difficult to identify the most effective and safest available treatment. The choice and comparison between biological agents are a challenge, for only limited head-to-head clinical studies are available. The aim of this manuscript is to review the published network meta-analysis (NMA) to gain a better understanding of efficacy and safety of biological agents and small molecules in the management of RA patients. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We used MEDLINE and EMBASE to identify network meta-analyses from 2008 to June 2019 comparing efficacy and safety of licensed biological agents and tsDMARDS at the approved dosages using predefined text words related to the topic. The following scenarios have been investigated: patients not responding to csDMARD (cDMARDs – IR); csDMARD naïve patients; patients not responding to biologics (bDMARDs – IR); patients in biological monotherapy. RESULTS: On the basis of the data present in the literature, we are able to hypothesize some trends of response in terms of efficacy in different subsets of patients, for example patients in monotherapy, bDMARds unresponsive patients, and Methotrexate-naive patients. The differences of the results presented in many works are due to the different inclusion criteria used in the studies, the type of biologics agent used in each study (according to the available molecules in the different years of publication), as well as differences in the methodology of NMA and in the presentation of the data. CONCLUSIONS: We suggest that the next NMA follows the indications suggested by the Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) so that the results are comparable and comprehensible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1624-1644
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Biological agents
  • Network meta-analysis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • TsDMARDs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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