Background: Melasma is a chronic skin condition that adversely impacts quality of life. Although many therapeutic modalities are available there is no single best treatment for melasma. Oral tranexamic acid has been used for the treatment of this condition but its optimal dose is yet to be established.
Objectives: We used network meta-analysis to determine the optimal dose of oral tranexamic acid for the treatment of melasma.
Methods: We conducted a comprehensive search of all studies of oral tranexamic acid for the treatment of melasma up to September 2020 using PubMed, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library database. The quality of the studies was evaluated using the Jadad score and the Cochrane's risk of bias assessment tool. Only high quality randomised controlled trials were selected. Some studies lacked standard deviation of changes from baseline and these were estimated using the correlation coefficient obtained from another similar study.
Results: A total of 92 studies were identified of which 6 randomized controlled trials comprising 599 patients were included to form 3 pair-wise network comparisons. The mean age of the patients in these studies ranged from 30.3 to 46.5 years and the treatment duration ranged from 8 to 12 weeks. The Jadad scores ranged from 5 to 8. The optimal dose and duration of oral tranexamic acid was estimated to be 750 mg per day for 12 consecutive weeks.
Limitations: Some confounding factors might not have been described in the original studies. Although clear rules were followed, the Melasma Area and Severity Index and the modified Melasma Area and Severity Index were scored by independent physicians and hence inter-observer bias could not be excluded.
Conclusion: Oral tranexamic acid is a promising drug for the treatment of melasma. This is the first network meta-analysis to determine the optimal dose of this drug and to report the effects of different dosages. The optimal dose is 250 mg three times per day for 12 weeks, but 250 mg twice daily may be an acceptable option in poorly adherent patients. Our findings will allow physicians to balance drug effects and medication adherence. Personalized treatment plans are warranted.
Keywords: Oral tranexamic acid; melasma; network meta-analysis.