Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor agonists have been shown to have a neuroprotectant effect in reducing infarct size and improving functional outcome in animal models of cerebrovascular disease. However, the sedative effects of GABA receptor agonists have limited their wider application in people with acute stroke, due to the potential risk of stupor. This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2013, and previously updated in 2014.
To determine the efficacy and safety of GABA receptor agonists in the treatment of acute stroke.
We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (accessed March 2016), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) 2016, Issue 3, part of the Cochrane Library (accessed March 2016), MEDLINE (from 1949 to March 2016), Embase (from 1980 to March 2016), CINAHL (from 1982 to March 2016), AMED (from 1985 to March 2016), and 11 Chinese databases (accessed March 2016). In an effort to identify further published, unpublished, and ongoing trials we searched ongoing trials registers, reference lists, and relevant conference proceedings, and contacted authors and pharmaceutical companies.
We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating GABA receptor agonists versus placebo for people with acute stroke (within 12 hours after stroke onset), with the primary outcomes of efficacy and safety.
Two review authors independently screened the titles and abstracts of identified records, selected studies for inclusion, extracted eligible data, cross-checked the data for accuracy, and assessed the risk of bias.
We included five trials with 3838 participants (3758 analyzed). The methodological quality of the included trials was generally good, with an unclear risk for selection bias only. Four trials (N = 2909) measured death and dependency at three months for chlormethiazole versus placebo; pooled results did not find a significant difference (risk ratio (RR) 1.03, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.96 to 1.11). One trial (N = 849) measured this outcome for diazepam versus placebo (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.82 to 1.07). The most frequent adverse events related to chlormethiazole were somnolence (RR 4.56, 95% CI 3.50 to 5.95; two trials; N = 2527) and rhinitis (RR 4.75, 95% CI 2.67 to 8.46; two trials; N = 2527).
This review provides moderate-quality evidence that fails to support the use of GABA receptor agonists (chlormethiazole or diazepam) for the treatment of people with acute stroke. More well-designed RCTs with large samples of participants with total anterior circulation syndrome are required to determine if there are benefits for this subgroup. Somnolence and rhinitis are frequent adverse events related to chlormethiazole.