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Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 Jul;104(7):1831-43; quiz 1844. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2009.223. Epub 2009 May 26.

Efficacy of 5-HT3 antagonists and 5-HT4 agonists in irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Gastroenterology Division, McMaster University, Health Sciences Center, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic functional disorder. 5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) is a key modulator of gastrointestinal sensorimotor function. Many patients have IBS that can be difficult to treat, which has led to the development of newer agents, such as 5-HT(3) antagonists and 5-HT(4) agonists. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to estimate the efficacy of all available 5-HT agents in IBS.


MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register were searched (up to June 2008). Trials recruiting adults with IBS in primary, secondary, or tertiary care comparing 5-HT(3) antagonists or 5-HT(4) agonists with placebo were eligible. Dichotomous symptom data were pooled to obtain a relative risk (RR) of remaining symptomatic after therapy, with a 95% confidence interval (CI). The number needed to treat (NNT) was calculated from the reciprocal of the risk difference.


The strategic search identified 1,593 citations. A total of 29 RCTs were eligible for inclusion; placebo was compared with 5-HT(3) antagonists in 11 RCTs, with tegaserod in 11, and with mixed 5-HT(3) antagonists/5-HT(4) agonists in 7. The study quality was generally high. The RR of IBS symptoms persisting with 5-HT(3) antagonists vs. placebo was 0.78 (95% CI: 0.71-0.86), with a similar benefit for both alosetron and cilansetron. Tegaserod was also superior to placebo (RR=0.85; 95% CI: 0.80-0.90). Renzapride and cisapride had no benefit in IBS.


Alosetron, cilansetron, and tegaserod are all effective in the treatment of IBS. Serious adverse events were rare in the eligible RCTs included in this systematic review.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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