Objective. To evaluate the role of common internal controls in a meta-analysis of the relative efficacy of cyclooxygenase 2-selective inhibitors (coxibs) in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA). Methods. A systematic search of Medline and US Food and Drug Administration electronic databases was performed to identify randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of coxibs (etoricoxib, celecoxib, rofecoxib, valdecoxib) in patients with hip and/or knee OA. The effect size for coxibs and common active internal controls (nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs [NSAIDs], naproxen) were determined by the mean changes from baseline in Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index pain subscores as compared with placebo. Results. The effect size for all coxib groups combined (0.44) indicated greater efficacy as compared with placebo, but significant heterogeneity (P < 0.0001) was observed. Rofecoxib at dosages of 12.5 mg/day and 25 mg/day and etoricoxib at a dosage of 60 mg/day had similar effect sizes (0.68 and 0.73, respectively), but these effect sizes were comparatively greater than those for both celecoxib at dosages of 200 mg/day and 100 mg twice daily or valdecoxib at a dosage of 10 mg/day (0.26 and 0.16, respectively). The effect sizes for NSAIDs or naproxen versus placebo, as determined using data from rofecoxib/etoricoxib trials, were consistently higher than the effect sizes derived from trials of celecoxib/valdecoxib. Significant heterogeneity was present in the overall effect size for NSAIDs (P = 0.007) and naproxen (P = 0.04) groups based on data available from all coxib trials. Conclusion. Coxibs and common active internal controls showed larger effect sizes versus placebo in the rofecoxib/ etoricoxib trials than in the celecoxib/valdecoxib trials. These findings suggest systematic differences among published coxib trials and emphasize the need for direct-comparison trials. In the absence of such trials, common internal controls should be assessed when performing indirect meta-analytic comparisons.
- Cyclooxygenase 2-selective inhibitor
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