BACKGROUND: Ménière's disease is characterized by recurrent episodes of vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus, often with a feeling of fullness in the ear. Although betahistine is thought to be specifically effective for Ménière's disease, no evidence for a benefit from the use of betahistine exists, despite its widespread use. Reassessment of the effect of betahistine for Ménière's disease is now warranted.
SEARCH METHODS: We searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in the Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Ovid Medline, Ovid Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science, Clinicaltrials.gov, ICTRP, and additional sources for published and unpublished trials, in which betahistine was compared to placebo.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Our outcomes involved vertigo, significant adverse effect (upper gastrointestinal discomfort), hearing loss, tinnitus, aural fullness, other adverse effects, and disease-specific health-related quality of life. We used GRADE to assess the quality of the evidence.
MAIN RESULTS: We included 10 studies: 5 studies used a crossover design and the remaining 5 were parallel-group RCTs. One study with a low risk of bias found no significant difference between the betahistine groups and placebo with respect to vertigo after a long-term follow-up period. No significant difference in the incidence of upper gastrointestinal discomfort was found in 2 studies (low-certainty evidence). No differences in hearing loss, tinnitus, or well-being and disease-specific health-related quality of life were found (low- to very low-certainty of evidence). Data on aural fullness could not be extracted. No significant difference between the betahistine and the placebo groups (low-certainty evidence) could be demonstrated in the other adverse effect outcome with respect to dull headache. The pooled risk ratio for other adverse effect in the long term demonstrated a lower risk in favor of placebo over betahistine.
CONCLUSIONS: High-quality studies evaluating the effect of betahistine on patients with Ménière's disease are lacking. However, one study with low risk of bias found no evidence of a difference in the effect of betahistine on the primary outcome, vertigo, in patients with Ménière's disease when compared to placebo. The main focus of future research should be on the use of comparable outcome measures by means of patient-reported outcome measures.