Discontinuation, Efficacy, and Safety of Cholinesterase Inhibitors for Alzheimer’s Disease: a Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression of 43 Randomized Clinical Trials Enrolling 16 106 Patients

We investigated the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on all-cause discontinuation, efficacy and safety, and the effects of study design-, intervention-, and patient-related covariates on the risk-benefit of cholinesterase inhibitors for Alzheimer’s disease. Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials comparing cholinesterase inhibitors and placebo was performed. The effect of covariates on study outcomes was analysed by means of meta-regression using a Bayesian framework. Results: Forty-three randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials involving 16106 patients were included. All-cause discontinuation was higher with cholinesterase inhibitors (OR = 1.66), as was discontinuation due to adverse events (OR=1.75). Cholinesterase inhibitors improved cognitive function (standardized mean difference = 0.38), global symptomatology (standardized mean difference=0.28) and functional capacity (standardized mean difference=0.16) but not neuropsychiatric symptoms. Rivastigmine was associated with a poorer outcome on all-cause discontinuation (Diff OR = 1.66) and donepezil with a higher efficacy on global change (Diff standardized mean difference = 0.41). The proportion of patients with serious adverse events decreased with age (Diff OR = -0.09). Mortality was lower with cholinesterase inhibitors than with placebo (OR = 0.65). Conclusion: While cholinesterase inhibitors show a poor risk-benefit relationship as indicated by mild symptom improvement and a higher than placebo all-cause discontinuation, a reduction of mortality was suggested. Intervention- and patient-related factors modify the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors in patients with Alzheimer’s disease ​
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