Anti–vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy is commonly used to treat numerous retinal conditions and appears safe, yet controversy remains regarding systemic safety.
To evaluate the systemic safety of intravitreous anti-VEGF injections in high-risk patients with diabetic macular edema (DME) and to investigate separately the subgroup of these patients with the highest level of exposure to anti-VEGF monthly treatment for 2 years.
A search of MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, clincaltrials.gov, and ophthalmology congress abstracts January 1, 1947, to May 19, 2015.
Randomized clinical trials were selected that evaluated monthly anti-VEGF injections for DME for 2 years and reported the outcome measures of cerebrovascular accidents, myocardial infarctions, arteriothrombotic events, and mortality.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
Two reviewers collected data independently from each study for the meta-analysis. Data were pooled using a fixed-effects model and analyzed from November 6, 2014, to June 28, 2015. Peto odds ratios with 95% CIs were calculated.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Primary end points included cerebrovascular accidents and all-cause mortality in the highest-dose arms. Secondary outcomes included myocardial infarctions, arteriothrombotic events, and vascular-related death.
Of 1126 articles reviewed, 598 were removed as duplicate studies and 524, for lack of monthly treatment data for 2 years, leaving 4 studies for the meta-analysis that met the search criteria: 2 trials using monthly aflibercept and 2 using monthly ranibizumab, representing 1328 patients. The primary evaluation (1078 patients) combined the monthly aflibercept and the 0.5-mg ranibizumab arms and yielded an increased risk for death compared with sham and laser treatments (odds ratio [OR], 2.98; 95% CI, 1.44-6.14; P = .003). Analysis including monthly aflibercept and 0.5-mg ranibizumab yielded an increased risk for cerebrovascular accidents (OR, 2.33; 95% CI, 1.04-5.22; P = .04) and vascular death (OR, 2.51; 95% CI, 1.08-5.82; P = .03). No definitive increased risk for myocardial infarctions and arteriothrombotic events was seen with all dose combinations.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this meta-analysis of anti-VEGF agents for patients with DME, assessment of the highest-level exposure group (those high-risk patients with DME who received 2 years of monthly treatment) revealed a possible increased risk for death and potentially for cerebrovascular accidents. Consideration of total exposure to anti-VEGF agents when treating those at high risk for vascular disease may be important.