BACKGROUND: To inform the development of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunonology's (EAACI) Guidelines on Allergen Immunotherapy (AIT) for allergic asthma, we assessed the evidence on the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and safety of AIT.
METHODS: We performed a systematic review, which involved searching nine databases. Studies were screened against pre-defined eligibility criteria and critically appraised using established instruments. Data were synthesized using random-effects meta-analyses.
RESULTS: 98 studies satisfied the inclusion criteria. Short-term symptom scores were reduced with a standardized mean difference (SMD) of -1.11 (95%CI -1.66, -0.56). This was robust to a pre-specified sensitivity analyses, but there was evidence suggestive of publication bias. Short-term medication scores were reduced SMD -1.21 (95%CI -1.87, -0.54), again with evidence of potential publication bias. There was no reduction in short-term combined medication and symptom scores SMD 0.17 (95%CI -0.23, 0.58), but one study showed a beneficial long-term effect. For secondary outcomes subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) improved quality of life and decreased allergen specific airways hyperreactivity (AHR) but this was not the case for sub-lingual immunotherapy (SLIT). There were no consistent effects on asthma control, exacerbations, lung function, and non-specific AHR. AIT resulted in a modest increased risk of adverse events (AEs). Although relatively uncommon, systemic AEs were more frequent with SCIT; however no fatalities were reported. The limited evidence on cost-effectiveness was mainly available for sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) and this suggested that SLIT is likely to be cost-effective.
CONCLUSIONS: AIT can achieve substantial reductions in short-term symptom and medication scores in allergic asthma. It was however associated with a modest increased risk of systemic and local AEs. More data are needed in relation to secondary outcomes, longer-term effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
- Journal Article