Immunomodulatory treatment other than corticosteroids, immunoglobulin and plasma exchange for chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 14;(6):CD003280. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003280.pub4.


Background: Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP) is a disease causing progressive or relapsing and remitting weakness and numbness. It is probably due to an autoimmune process. Immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory drugs would be expected to be beneficial. This review was first published in 2003 and has been most recently updated in 2013.

Objectives: We aimed to review systematically the evidence from randomised trials of immunomodulatory and immunosuppressive agents other than corticosteroids, immunoglobulin and plasma exchange for CIDP.

Search methods: On 9 July 2012, we searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Specialized Register (July 2012), CENTRAL (2012, Issue 6 in The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE (January 1977 to July 2012), EMBASE (January 1980 to July 2012), CINAHL (January 1982 to July 2012) and LILACS (January 1982 to July 2012). We contacted the authors of the trials identified and other disease experts seeking other published and unpublished trials.

Selection criteria: We sought randomised and quasi-randomised trials of all immunosuppressive agents such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, ciclosporin, mycophenolate mofetil, and rituximab and all immunomodulatory agents such as interferon alfa and interferon beta, in participants fulfilling standard diagnostic criteria for CIDP.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently selected trials, judged their risk of bias and extracted data. We wanted to measure the change in disability after one year as our primary outcome. Our secondary outcomes were change in disability after four or more weeks (from randomisation), change in impairment after at least one year, change in maximum motor nerve conduction velocity and compound muscle action potential amplitude after one year and for those participants who were receiving corticosteroids or intravenous immunoglobulin, the amount of this medication given during at least one year after randomisation. Participants with one or more serious adverse events during the first year was also a secondary outcome.

Main results: Four trials fulfilled the selection criteria, one of azathioprine (27 participants), two of interferon beta-1a (77 participants in total) and one of methotrexate (60 participants). The risk of bias in the two trials of interferon beta-1a for CIDP and the trial of methotrexate was assessed to be low but bias in the trial of azathioprine was judged high. None of these trials showed significant benefit in the primary outcome (measured only in the methotrexate study) or secondary outcomes selected for this review. Severe adverse events occurred no more frequently than in the placebo groups for methotrexate and interferon beta-1a, but participant numbers were low. There was no adverse event reporting in the azathioprine study.

Authors' conclusions: The evidence from randomised trials does not show significant benefit from azathioprine, interferon beta-1a or methotrexate but none of the trials was large enough to rule out small or moderate benefit. The evidence from observational studies is insufficient to avoid the need for randomised controlled trials to discover whether these drugs are beneficial. Future trials should have improved designs, more sensitive outcome measures and longer durations.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Interferon beta-1a
  • Interferon-beta / therapeutic use
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating / drug therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Interferon-beta
  • Azathioprine
  • Interferon beta-1a
  • Methotrexate