Tibolone is an option available for the treatment of menopausal symptoms, based on short-term data on its efficacy. However, there is a need to consider the balance between the benefits and risks of tibolone as there are concerns about breast and endometrial cancer as well as stroke.
To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of tibolone in treating postmenopausal women.
We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group (MDSG) Specialised Register (19 April 2011), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2011, 2nd Quarter), MEDLINE (from inception to 19 April 2011), EMBASE (1980 to week 3 April 2011), PsycINFO (1806 to week 3 April 2011), Clinical Trials.gov (30 April 2011). Individual researchers and the current manufacturer of tibolone were contacted to identify unpublished and ongoing trials.
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compared tibolone versus placebo, estrogens or combined hormone replacement therapy (HT) by assessing the percentage of women with menopausal symptoms, the severity of those symptoms and the occurrence of safety outcomes in postmenopausal women.
Four review authors independently extracted information from the articles, resolving discrepancies by consensus. All outcomes studied were dichotomous. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using the random-effects model. Heterogeneity of studies was taken into account before deciding to combine the data.
When compared to placebo, tibolone was more effective in relieving the frequency of vasomotor symptoms (two RCTs, n = 847; OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.69), although only the 2.5 mg/day dose of tibolone was significantly better than placebo; but with increased vaginal bleeding (seven RCTs, n = 7462; OR 2.75, 95% CI 1.99 to 3.80). When compared to equipotent doses of combined HT, tibolone reduced vaginal bleeding (15 RCTs, n = 6342; OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.42) but was less effective in relieving the frequency of vasomotor symptoms (two RCTs, n = 545; OR 4.16, 95% CI 1.50 to 11.58).As for long term safety, two major RCTs of tibolone versus placebo provided the most relevant data. An RCT of 3098 women with breast cancer and menopausal symptoms was halted after 3.1 years because of increased tumour recurrence (OR 1.50; 95% CI 1.21 to 1.85). However, in another RCT that selected osteoporotic women with negative mammograms (n = 4506) tibolone was associated with a reduction in breast cancer compared to placebo after 2.8 years (OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.79) although the trial was not specifically designed to assess that outcome and the number of overall events was low. In the same RCT, an excess risk of stroke was observed (OR 2.18, 95% CI 1.12 to 4.21). There was no clear evidence of a tibolone effect on endometrial cancer compared with placebo given the low number of events (seven RCTs, n = 8152; OR 1.98, 95% CI 0.73 to 5.32).There was no evidence of a difference in long term safety between tibolone and combined HT.