Tegaserod for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic, relapsing condition characterized by the presence of abdominal pain and disturbed bowel habit. Symptoms of chronic constipation frequently resemble those of constipation-predominant IBS. Tegaserod (4 or 12 mg/day for 12 weeks), a drug that stimulates smooth muscle in the gastrointestinal tract, produces some benefit over placebo when used to treat IBS where constipation is a major symptom. Patients taking tegaserod reported an overall improvement in their IBS symptoms, an increase in number of bowel movements per day and a reduction in number of days without bowel movements. It is not clear if tegaserod improves symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, stool consistency and straining. When used to treat chronic constipation, the frequency of bowel movements increased with tegaserod, but increases over those seen with placebo were small. Diarrhea occurred more often among individuals taking high dose tegaserod (12 mg/day). Further studies are needed to assess the effect of tegaserod on quality of life. More information is needed on its effectiveness in men, as most of the studies involved women.

Authors' conclusions: 

Tegaserod appears to improve the overall symptomatology of IBS, and the frequency of bowel movements in those with chronic constipation. The clinical importance of these modest improvements is not clear. There are currently few data on its effect on quality of life. In addition, more information is needed about its efficacy in men. It would also be of interest to know whether treatment with tegaserod leads either directly, or indirectly, to changes in visceral sensitivity or psychopathology, which are also considered important in the pathophysiology of these conditions.

Read the full abstract...

IBS is a complex disorder that encompasses a wide profile of symptoms. The symptoms of chronic constipation frequently resemble those of constipation-predominant IBS. Current drug treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are of limited value. Many target specific symptoms only. Tegaserod, a 5HT4 partial agonist, represents a novel mechanism of action in the treatment of IBS and chronic constipation.


The objective of this review was to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of tegaserod for the treatment of IBS and chronic constipation in adults and adolescents aged 12 years and above.

Search strategy: 

MEDLINE 1966-December 2006 and EMBASE 1980 to December 2006 were searched. The text and key words used included "tegaserod", "HTF 919", "irritable bowel", "constipation" and "colonic diseases, functional". The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Review Group Specialized Trials Register were also searched. Searches stopped on 15th December 2006. Relevant articles were retrieved, and their reference lists were also reviewed.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials comparing tegaserod with placebo, no treatment or any other intervention (pharmacological or non-pharmacological) in subjects aged 12 years and above with a diagnosis of IBS or chronic constipation, focusing on clinical endpoints were considered for review.

Data collection and analysis: 

Study inclusion and exclusion, data extraction and quality assessment was undertaken by two authors independently. Meta-analysis was performed where study populations, designs, outcomes, and statistical reporting allowed combination of data in a valid way, using the summary statistics relative risk for dichotomous data and weighted mean difference for continuous data, both with 95% CI. Thirteen short-term placebo-controlled studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. These were predominantly conducted in women. Ten studies evaluated the efficacy of tegaserod on global gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in patients with constipation-predominant IBS (C-IBS). One small study evaluated safety in patients with diarrhoea-predominant IBS. Two studies evaluated the effectiveness of tegaserod for the treatment of chronic constipation.

Main results: 

In patients with C-IBS, the relative risk (RR) of being a responder in terms of global relief of GI symptoms during the last 4 weeks of treatment was significantly higher with both tegaserod 12 mg and 4 mg doses compared with placebo. Although the pooled results indicate statistically significant benefit with tegaserod, the a priori minimal clinically important differences set in two of three studies were not reached. The responder rate for this endpoint was also higher when considered for the first 4 weeks of treatment (tegaserod 12 mg only). Tegaserod did not significantly improve the patients' individual symptoms of abdominal pain and discomfort although bowel habit showed a statistically significant improvement with tegaserod 4 mg and there was a non-significant trend in this outcome in favour of tegaserod 12 mg. In patients with chronic constipation, the RR of being a responder in terms of complete spontaneous bowel movements per week with tegaserod 12 mg was 1.54 (95% CI 1.35 to 1.75), WMD for this endpoint compared with placebo 0.6 (95% CI 0.42 to 0.78). Differences between tegaserod and placebo in increases in frequency of bowel movements were small (less than one per week). The proportion of patients with either diagnosis who experienced diarrhea was significantly higher in the tegaserod 12 mg group compared with placebo (RR 2.80, 95% CI 2.13 to 3.68), with a number needed to harm (NNH) of 20. Effects of tegaserod on GI symptoms such as bloating, stool consistency, and straining were not consistent across the studies.