Can Matching-Adjusted Indirect Comparison Methods Mitigate Placebo Response Differences Among Patient Populations in Adjunctive Trials of Brivaracetam and Levetiracetam?

Cns Drugs. Oct 2017;31(10):899-910


Patients with focal seizures recruited into adjunctive antiepileptic drug (AED) trials have become more refractory and severe over time; concurrently, placebo responses have increased. To attempt to account for heterogeneity among trials, propensity-score weighted patient-level data were used to indirectly compare placebo responses reported in brivaracetam and levetiracetamtrials.


Patient-level data from randomised, placebo-controlled brivaracetam (recruited 2007-2014) and levetiracetam (1993-1998) trialswere pooled. Consistent inclusion/exclusion criteria were applied and outcomes were defined consistently. Potentially confounding baseline characteristics were adjusted for using propensity score weighting. Weighting success was assessed using placebo response.


In total, 707 and 473 active drug and 399 and 253 placebo patients comprised the brivaracetam and levetiracetam groups, respectively. Before weighting, several baseline variables were significantly different between groups; after weighting, prior vagal nerve stimulation, co-morbid depression and co-morbid anxiety remained different. Before weighting, median seizure frequency reduction was 21.7 and 3.9% in the brivaracetam and levetiracetam placebo arms, respectively; after weighting, median reduction was 15.0 and 6.0%. The comparison of non-randomised groups could be biased by unobserved confounding factors and region of residence. Lifetime AED history was unavailable in the brivaracetam trials and excluded from analysis.


Placebo responses remained different between brivaracetam and levetiracetam trials after propensity score weighting, indicating the presence of residual confounding factors associated with placebo response in these trials. It therefore remains problematic to conduct reliable indirect comparisons of brivaracetam and levetiracetam given the current evidence base, which may apply to comparisons between other AED trials.

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Swallow E, Fang A, Signorovitch J, Plumb J, Borghs S