Antipsychotic effects of immunomodulating drugs have been suggested; however, a thorough, comprehensive meta-analysis on the effect and safety of anti-inflammatory add-on treatment on psychotic disorders is lacking.
Multiple databases were searched up until February 2020. Only double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials (RCTs) were included. Primary outcomes were change in total psychopathology and adverse events. Secondary outcomes included amongst others, positive and negative symptoms, general psychopathology and cognitive domains. We performed random-effects meta-analyses estimating mean differences (MD) and standardized mean differences (SMD) for effect sizes.
Seventy RCTs (N=4104) were included, investigating either primarily anti-inflammatory drugs, i.e. drug developed for immunomodulation, such as NSAIDs, minocycline and monoclonal antibodies (k=15), or drugs with potential anti-inflammatory properties (k=55), e.g. neurosteroids, N-acetyl cysteine, estrogens, fatty acids, statins, and glitazones. Antipsychotics plus anti-inflammatory treatment, compared to antipsychotics plus placebo, was associated with a PANSS scale MD improvement of -4.57 (95%CI= -5.93 to -3.20) points, corresponding to a SMD effect size of -0.29 (95%CI= -0.40 to -0.19). Trials on schizophrenia (MD= -6.80; 95%CI, -9.08 to -4.52) showed greater improvement (p<0.01) than trials also including other psychotic disorders. However, primarily anti-inflammatory drugs (MD=4.00; 95%CI= -7.19 to -0.80) was not superior (p=0.69) to potential anti-inflammatory drugs (MD=4.71; 95%CI= -6.26 to -3.17). Furthermore, meta regression found that smaller studies showed significantly larger effect sizes than the larger studies (p=0.0085), and only 2 studies had low risk of bias on all domains. Small but significant effects were found on negative symptoms (MD= -1.29), positive symptoms (MD= -0.53), general psychopathology (MD= -1.50) and working memory (SMD= 0.21). No differences were found regarding adverse events, but only 26 studies reported hereon.
Anti-inflammatory add-on treatment to antipsychotics showed improvement of psychotic disorders; however, no superiority was found in primarily anti-inflammatory drugs raising the question of the mechanism behind the effect, and treatment effect might be overestimated due to the large number of small studies.
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