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Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor treatment for retinal conditions: a systematic review and meta-analysis

29 May 2019


To evaluate the comparative effectiveness and safety of intravitreal bevacizumab, ranibizumab and aflibercept for patients with choroidal neovascular age-related macular degeneration (cn-AMD), diabetic macular oedema (DMO), macular oedema due to retinal vein occlusion (RVO-MO) and myopic choroidal neovascularisation (m-CNV).


Systematic review and random-effects meta-analysis.


Multiple databases were searched from inception to 17 August 2017. Eligible head-to-head randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the (anti-VEGF) drugs in adult patients aged ≥18 years with the retinal conditions of interest. Two reviewers independently screened studies, extracted data and assessed risk of bias.


19 RCTs involving 7459 patients with cn-AMD (n=12), DMO (n=3), RVO-MO (n=2) and m-CNV (n=2) were included. Vision gain was not significantly different in patients with cn-AMD, DMO, RVO-MO and m-CNV treated with bevacizumab versus ranibizumab. Similarly, vision gain was not significantly different between cn-AMD patients treated with aflibercept versus ranibizumab. Patients with DMO treated with aflibercept experienced significantly higher vision gain at 12 months than patients receiving ranibizumab or bevacizumab; however, this difference was not significant at 24 months. Rates of systemic serious harms were similar across anti-VEGF agents. Posthoc analyses revealed that an as-needed treatment regimen (6–9 injections per year) was associated with a mortality increase of 1.8% (risk ratio: 2.0 [1.2 to 3.5], 2 RCTs, 1795 patients) compared with monthly treatment in cn-AMD patients.


Intravitreal bevacizumab was a reasonable alternative to ranibizumab and aflibercept in patients with cn-AMD, DMO, RVO-MO and m-CNV. The only exception was for patients with DME and low visual acuity (<69 early treatment diabetic retinopathy study [ETDRS] letters), where treatment with aflibercept was associated with significantly higher vision gain (≥15 ETDRS letters) than bevacizumab or ranibizumab at 12 months; but the significant effects were not maintained at 24 months. The choice of anti-VEGF drugs may depend on the specific retinal condition, baseline visual acuity and treatment regimen.

PROSPERO registration number


Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open