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1.  Inhaled drugs to reduce exacerbations in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a network meta-analysis 
BMC Medicine  2009;7:2.
Most patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) receive inhaled long-acting bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids. Conventional meta-analyses established that these drugs reduce COPD exacerbations when separately compared with placebo. However, there are relatively few head-to-head comparisons and conventional meta-analyses focus on single comparisons rather than on a simultaneous analysis of competing drug regimens that would allow rank ordering of their effectiveness. Therefore we assessed, using a network meta-analytic technique, the relative effectiveness of the common inhaled drug regimes used to reduce exacerbations in patients with COPD.
We conducted a systematic review and searched existing systematic reviews and electronic databases for randomized trials of ≥ 4 weeks' duration that assessed the effectiveness of inhaled drug regimes on exacerbations in patients with stable COPD. We extracted participants and intervention characteristics from included trials and assessed their methodological quality. For each treatment group we registered the proportion of patients with ≥ 1 exacerbation during follow-up. We used treatment-arm based logistic regression analysis to estimate the absolute and relative effects of inhaled drug treatments while preserving randomization within trials.
We identified 35 trials enrolling 26,786 patients with COPD of whom 27% had ≥ 1 exacerbation. All regimes reduced exacerbations statistically significantly compared with placebo (odds ratios ranging from 0.71 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.64 to 0.80) for long-acting anticholinergics to 0.78 (95% CI 0.70 to 0.86) for inhaled corticosteroids). Compared with long-acting bronchodilators alone, combined treatment was not more effective (comparison with long-acting beta-agonists: odds ratio 0.93 [95% CI 0.84 to 1.04] and comparison with long-acting anticholinergics: odds ratio 1.02 [95% CI 0.90 to 1.16], respectively). If FEV1 was ≤ 40% predicted, long-acting anticholinergics, inhaled corticosteroids, and combination treatment reduced exacerbations significantly compared with long-acting beta-agonists alone, but not if FEV1 was > 40% predicted. This effect modification was significant for inhaled corticosteroids (P = 0.02 for interaction) and combination treatment (P = 0.01) but not for long-acting anticholinergics (P = 0.46). A limitation of this analysis is its exclusive focus on exacerbations and lack of FEV1 data for individual patients.
We found no evidence that one single inhaled drug regimen is more effective than another in reducing exacerbations. Inhaled corticosteroids when added to long-acting beta-agonists reduce exacerbations only in patients with COPD with FEV1 ≤ 40%.
PMCID: PMC2636836  PMID: 19144173
2.  Where is the supporting evidence for treating mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations with antibiotics? A systematic review 
BMC Medicine  2008;6:28.
Randomised trials comparing different drugs head-to-head are extremely valuable for clinical decision-making. However, it is scientifically and ethically sensible to demand strong evidence that a drug is effective by showing superiority over a placebo before embarking on head-to-head comparisons of potentially ineffective drugs. Our aim was to study the evolvement of evidence from placebo-controlled and head-to-head trials on the effects of antibiotics for the treatment of mild to moderate exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
We conducted a historical systematic review. Through electronic databases and hand-searches, we identified placebo-controlled and head-to-head antibiotic trials for the treatment of mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations. We compared the numbers of patients recruited in placebo-controlled and head-to-head trials between 1957 and 2005. Using cumulative meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials, we determined when, if ever, placebo-controlled trials had shown convincing evidence that antibiotics are effective in preventing treatment failure in patients with mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations.
The first head-to-head trial was published in 1963. It was followed by another 100 trials comparing different antibiotics in a total of 34,029 patients with mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations. Over time, the cumulative odds ratio in placebo-controlled trials remained inconclusive throughout with odds ratios ranging from 0.39 (95% confidence intervals 0.04–4.22) to the most recent estimate (1995) of 0.81 (95% confidence intervals 0.52–1.28, P = 0.37).
Placebo-controlled trials do not support the use of antibiotics in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients with mild to moderate exacerbations. Conducting head-to-head trials is, therefore, scientifically and ethically questionable. This underscores the requirement to perform or study systematic reviews of placebo-controlled trials before conducting head-to-head trials.
PMCID: PMC2569060  PMID: 18847478
3.  Bias associated with delayed verification in test accuracy studies: accuracy of tests for endometrial hyperplasia may be much higher than we think! 
BMC Medicine  2004;2:18.
To empirically evaluate bias in estimation of accuracy associated with delay in verification of diagnosis among studies evaluating tests for predicting endometrial hyperplasia.
Systematic reviews of all published research on accuracy of miniature endometrial biopsy and endometr ial ultrasonography for diagnosing endometrial hyperplasia identified 27 test accuracy studies (2,982 subjects). Of these, 16 had immediate histological verification of diagnosis while 11 had verification delayed > 24 hrs after testing. The effect of delay in verification of diagnosis on estimates of accuracy was evaluated using meta-regression with diagnostic odds ratio (dOR) as the accuracy measure. This analysis was adjusted for study quality and type of test (miniature endometrial biopsy or endometrial ultrasound).
Compared to studies with immediate verification of diagnosis (dOR 67.2, 95% CI 21.7–208.8), those with delayed verification (dOR 16.2, 95% CI 8.6–30.5) underestimated the diagnostic accuracy by 74% (95% CI 7%–99%; P value = 0.048).
Among studies of miniature endometrial biopsy and endometrial ultrasound, diagnostic accuracy is considerably underestimated if there is a delay in histological verification of diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC419332  PMID: 15137911

Results 1-3 (3)