A Systematic Literature Review and Network Meta-Analysis of Comparative Efficacy of Topical Fixed-Dose Combination Treatments for Moderate to Severe Acne Vulgaris

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Julie C Harper
Hilary E Baldwin
Saswata Paul Choudhury
Bikramaditya Ghosh
Deepti Rai
Md Sohail Aman
Abhra Roy Choudhury
Debalina Dey
Sekhar K Dutta
Subrata Bhattacharyya
Tina Lin
George Joseph
Ankur A Dashputre
Jerry Tan


acne, acne vulgaris, moderate to severe acne, moderate-severe acne, Network meta-analysis, literature review


INTRODUCTION: Several topical and oral monotherapies/combination treatments are available for treating patients with moderate to severe acne vulgaris and a few are currently under review with the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among these treatments, topical fixed-dose combinations (FDCs) are widely used in the US. No study has assessed the comparative efficacy of topical FDCs based on the treatment success endpoint of the proportion of patients achieving ≥2 grade reduction AND "Clear" or "Almost clear” status by week 12 on an Investigator's Global Assessment (IGA) or equivalent scales. The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic literature review (SLR) and network meta-analysis (NMA) to compare the efficacy of topical FDCs for the treatment of moderate to severe acne.

STUDY DESCRIPTION: An SLR was conducted for identifying randomized controlled trials (RCTs), that included at least one topical FDC (currently approved/under review with FDA) arm, in academic (MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL, PEDE, and NHS EED) and non-academic databases (HTA databases, conference abstracts databases, and trial registries). The search was conducted in May 2022, based on a pre-specified inclusion/exclusion criterion. RCTs included in the analysis evaluated acne severity using IGA or equivalent (Evaluator's Global Severity Score, Investigator’s Static Global Assessment) scales. A Bayesian network meta-regression was conducted, using the proportion of patients with moderate acne, inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesion counts at baseline as covariates to account for acne severity.

RESULTS: Twelve Phase II/III/IV RCTs were identified from 5,159 citations comprising 8,349 patients across 8 treatment groups. The odds ratio for treatment success with topical FDC of clindamycin phosphate 1.2%, adapalene 0.15%, and benzoyl peroxide 3.1% (first triple agent FDC) gel was estimated to be 7.61 (95% Credible Interval: 4.44 –13.20) in comparison to Vehicle gel. Comparative effectiveness ranking demonstrated that the topical triple agent FDC gel was the most effective treatment with surface under cumulative ranking of 100%.

CONCLUSION: Based on this SLR/NMA, the topical triple agent FDC of clindamycin phosphate 1.2%, adapalene 0.15%, and benzoyl peroxide 3.1% gel, which is currently under FDA review (PDUFA date 10/20/2023), was clinically superior to all other topical FDC treatments for moderate to severe acne vulgaris.


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