Comparative Effectiveness of First-Line Medications for Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-analysis

Ophthalmology. 2016 Jan;123(1):129-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2015.09.005. Epub 2015 Oct 31.


Topic: Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is a highly prevalent condition worldwide and the most common cause of irreversible sight loss. The objective is to assess the comparative effectiveness of first-line medical treatments in patients with POAG or ocular hypertension through a systematic review and network meta-analysis, and to provide relative rankings of these treatments.

Clinical relevance: Treatment for POAG currently relies completely on lowering the intraocular pressure (IOP). Although topical drops, lasers, and surgeries can be considered in the initial treatment of glaucoma, most patients elect to start treatment with eye drops.

Methods: We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared a single active topical medication with no treatment/placebo or another single topical medication. We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Food and Drug Administration's website. Two individuals independently assessed trial eligibility, abstracted data, and assessed the risk of bias. We performed Bayesian network meta-analyses.

Results: We included 114 RCTs with data from 20 275 participants. The overall risk of bias of the included trials is mixed. The mean reductions (95% credible intervals) in IOP in millimeters of mercury at 3 months ordered from the most to least effective drugs were as follows: bimatoprost 5.61 (4.94; 6.29), latanoprost 4.85 (4.24; 5.46), travoprost 4.83 (4.12; 5.54), levobunolol 4.51 (3.85; 5.24), tafluprost 4.37 (2.94; 5.83), timolol 3.70 (3.16; 4.24), brimonidine 3.59 (2.89; 4.29), carteolol 3.44 (2.42; 4.46), levobetaxolol 2.56 (1.52; 3.62), apraclonidine 2.52 (0.94; 4.11), dorzolamide 2.49 (1.85; 3.13), brinzolamide 2.42 (1.62; 3.23), betaxolol 2.24 (1.59; 2.88), and unoprostone 1.91 (1.15; 2.67).

Conclusions: All active first-line drugs are effective compared with placebo in reducing IOP at 3 months. Bimatoprost, latanoprost, and travoprost are among the most efficacious drugs, although the within-class differences were small and may not be clinically meaningful. All factors, including adverse effects, patient preferences, and cost, should be considered in selecting a drug for a given patient.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / drug therapy*
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure / drug effects*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antihypertensive Agents