Background: The withdrawal of certain cyclooxygenase-2 selective drugs and the availability of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have increased the pressure for researching and prescribing conventional NSAIDs with a favourable efficacy/tolerance ratio in inflammatory diseases, particularly rheumatoid arthritis. The aim of this comprehensive meta-analysis was to evaluate the absolute and relative efficacy and safety of flurbiprofen in the management of rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods: A systematic and exhaustive bibliographic research of published literature has been performed. The inclusion criteria are summarised as follows: randomised trial and rheumatoid arthritis and flurbiprofen and oral administration and anti-inflammatory doses from 100 to 300 mg and (placebo or aspirin or indomethacin or naproxen or ibuprofen or ketoprofen) and (articular pain or stiffness or swelling or mobility or patient/physician reported efficacy or tolerance or gastrointestinal (GI) tolerance).
Studies were conducted from January 1975 to January 2006. Analyses have been stratified by comparisons and outcomes. Publication bias and robustness have been extensively investigated.
Results: Fourteen studies, accounting for 1103 patient-years, have been included in the quantitative review. The mean daily doses administrated were 200 mg flurbiprofen, 4000 mg aspirin, 150 indomethacin, 750 mg naproxen and 1800 mg ibuprofen. Flurbiprofen was superior to placebo for all outcomes, and superior to three of four other NSAIDs in terms of formal symptomatic measures (pain, stiffness and swelling). Several patients or physicians reported the efficacy of flurbiprofen as superior to indomethacin and naproxen, while its safety, and particularly its GI tolerance were better compared with aspirin and indomethacin. Sensitivity analyses have reported a sufficient robustness against systematic publication bias assumptions.
Conclusion: This meta-analysis has shown that flurbiprofen is an interesting alternative to commonly prescribed NSAIDs in the symptomatic management of rheumatoid arthritis, especially given its favourable efficacy/tolerance ratio.