Objective: To compare the relative effectiveness of systemic corticosteroids plus immunosuppression when indicated (systemic therapy) versus fluocinolone acetonide implant (implant therapy) for noninfectious intermediate, posterior, or panuveitis (uveitis). Design: Randomized controlled parallel superiority trial. Participants: Patients with active or recently active uveitis. Methods: Participants were randomized (allocation ratio 1:1) to systemic or implant therapy at 23 centers (3 countries). Implant-assigned participants with bilateral uveitis were assigned to have each eye that warranted study treatment implanted. Treatment-outcome associations were analyzed by assigned treatment for all eyes with uveitis. Main Outcome Measures: Masked examiners measured the primary outcome: change in best-corrected visual acuity from baseline. Secondary outcomes included patient-reported quality of life, ophthalmologist-graded uveitis activity, and local and systemic complications of uveitis or therapy. Reading Center graders and glaucoma specialists assessing ocular complications were masked. Participants, ophthalmologists, and coordinators were unmasked. Results: On evaluation of changes from baseline to 24 months among 255 patients randomized to implant and systemic therapy (479 eyes with uveitis), the implant and systemic therapy groups had an improvement in visual acuity of +6.0 and +3.2 letters (P = 0.16, 95% confidence interval on difference in improvement between groups, -1.2 to +6.7 letters, positive values favoring implant), an improvement in vision-related quality of life of +11.4 and +6.8 units (P = 0.043), a change in EuroQol-EQ5D health utility of +0.02 and -0.02 (P = 0.060), and residual active uveitis in 12% and 29% (P=0.001), respectively. Over the 24 month period, implant-assigned eyes had a higher risk of cataract surgery (80%, hazard ratio [HR] = 3.3, P < 0.0001), treatment for elevated intraocular pressure (61%, HR=4.2, P < 0.0001), and glaucoma (17%, HR=4.2, P = 0.0008). Patients assigned to systemic therapy had more prescription-requiring infections than patients assigned to implant therapy (0.60 vs 0.36/person-year, P=0.034), without notable long-term consequences; systemic adverse outcomes otherwise were unusual in both groups, with minimal differences between groups. Conclusions: In each treatment group, mean visual acuity improved over 24 months, with neither approach superior to a degree detectable with the study's power. Therefore, the specific advantages and disadvantages identified should dictate selection between the alternative treatments in consideration of individual patients' particular circumstances. Systemic therapy with aggressive use of corticosteroid-sparing immunosuppression was well tolerated, suggesting that this approach is reasonably safe for local and systemic inflammatory disorders. Financial Disclosure(s): Proprietary or commercial disclosure may be found after the references.
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