Leukotriene receptor antagonists as add-on therapy to antihistamines for urticaria: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2024 Jun 7:S0091-6749(24)00571-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2024.05.026. Online ahead of print.


Background: The benefits and harms of adding antileukotrienes to H1 antihistamines (AHs) for the management of urticaria (hives, itch, and/or angioedema) remain unclear.

Objective: We sought to systematically synthesize the treatment outcomes of antileukotrienes in combination with AHs versus AHs alone for acute and chronic urticaria.

Methods: As part of updating American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters urticaria guidelines, we searched Medline, Embase, Central, LILACS, WPRIM, IBECS, ICTRP, CBM, CNKI, VIP, Wanfang, US Food and Drug Administration, and European Medicines Agency databases from inception to December 18, 2023, for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating antileukotrienes and AHs versus AHs alone in patients with urticaria. Paired reviewers independently screened citations, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. Random effects models pooled effect estimates for urticaria activity, itch, wheal, sleep, quality of life, and harms. The GRADE approach informed certainty of evidence ratings. The study was registered at the Open Science Framework (osf.io/h2bfx/).

Results: Thirty-four RCTs enrolled 3324 children and adults. Compared to AHs alone, the combination of a leukotriene receptor antagonist with AHs probably modestly reduces urticaria activity (mean difference, -5.04; 95% confidence interval, -6.36 to -3.71; 7-day urticaria activity score) with moderate certainty. We made similar findings for itch and wheal severity as well as quality of life. Adverse events were probably not different between groups (moderate certainty); however, no RCT reported on neuropsychiatric adverse events.

Conclusion: Among patients with urticaria, adding leukotriene receptor antagonists to AHs probably modestly improves urticaria activity with little to no increase in overall adverse events. The added risk of neuropsychiatric adverse events in this population with leukotriene receptor antagonists is small and uncertain.

Keywords: Chronic urticaria (hives); leukotriene receptor antagonists; meta-analysis; montelukast; systematic review; zafirlukast.