Interleukin (IL)-5 is believed to be a key cytokine in eosinophil inflammatory infiltration in asthma. Previous clinical trials have evaluated the efficacy and safety of mepolizumab, a monoclonal antibody against IL-5, in patients with asthma. However, most of these studies were small, the conclusions were inconsistent, and the precise effects are therefore debatable.
A meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials was conducted to evaluate the effect of intravenous infusion of mepolizumab on clinical outcomes in patients with asthma. Trials were searched in PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, Cochrane CENTRAL, Scopus, reviews, and reference lists of relevant articles. The outcome variables analyzed included eosinophil counts in blood and sputum, airways outcome measures, exacerbations, asthma control, and quality of life scores.
Seven studies met final inclusion criteria (total n = 1131). From the pooled analyses, mepolizumab significantly reduced eosinophils in blood (MD −0.29×109/L, 95% CI −0.44 to −0.14×109/L, P = 0.0001) and sputum (MD −6.05%, 95% CI −9.34 to −2.77%, P = 0.0003). Mepolizumab was also associated with significantly decreased exacerbation risk than placebo (OR 0.30, 95%CI 0.13 to 0.67, P = 0.004), and with a significant improvement in the scores on the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ) (MD 0.26, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.49, P = 0.03) in patients with eosinophilic asthma. There were no statistical differences between the groups with respect to FEV1, PEF, or histamine PC20 (all P>0.05), and a non-significant trend for improvement in scores on the Juniper Asthma Control Questionnaire (JACQ) (MD −0.21, 95% CI −0.43 to 0.01, P = 0.06) in the mepolizumab group was observed.
Mepolizumab reduces the risk of exacerbations and improves quality of life in patients with eosinophilic asthma, but no significant improvement in lung function outcomes was observed. Further research is required to establish the possible role of anti–IL-5 as a therapy for asthma.