Efficacy of vaginal estradiol or vaginal moisturizer vs placebo for treating postmenopausal vulvovaginal symptoms a randomized clinical trial

Caroline M. Mitchell, Susan D. Reed, Susan Diem, Joseph C. Larson, Katherine M. Newton, Kristine E. Ensrud, Andrea Z. LaCroix, Bette Caan, Katherine A. Guthrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE Nearly half of postmenopausal women report bothersome vulvovaginal symptoms, but few data support the efficacy of 2 commonly recommended treatments. OBJECTIVE To compare the efficacy of a low-dose vaginal estradiol tablet and a vaginal moisturizer, each vs placebo, for treatment of moderate-to-severe postmenopausal vulvovaginal symptoms. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This 12-week multicenter randomized clinical trial enrolled postmenopausal women with moderate to severe symptoms of vulvovaginal itching, pain, dryness, irritation, or pain with penetration. INTERVENTIONS Vaginal 10-μg estradiol tablet (daily for 2 weeks, then twice weekly) plus placebo gel (3 times a week) (n = 102) vs placebo tablet plus vaginal moisturizer (n = 100) vs dual placebo (n = 100). MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The main outcomewas decrease in severity (0-3) of most bothersome symptom (MBS) between enrollment and 12 weeks. Additional measures included a composite vaginal symptom score, Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) score (2-36), modified Female Sexual Distress Score-Revised item 1, treatment satisfaction and meaningful benefit, Vaginal Maturation Index, and vaginal pH. RESULTS The 302 women had a mean (SD) age of 61 (4) years and were primarily white (267 [88%]), college educated (200 [66%]), and sexually active (245 [81%]). Most women (294 [97%]) provided data for the primary analysis. The most commonly reported MBS was pain with vaginal penetration (182 [60%]), followed by vulvovaginal dryness (63 [21%]). Mean baseline MBS severity was similar between treatment groups: estradiol, 2.4 (95%CI, 2.3 to 2.6); moisturizer, 2.5 (95%CI, 2.3 to 2.6); placebo, 2.5 (95%CI, 2.4 to 2.6). All treatment groups had similar mean reductions in MBS severity over 12 weeks: estradiol,-1.4 (95%CI,-1.6 to-1.2); moisturizer,-1.2 (95%CI,-1.4 to-1.0); and placebo,-1.3 (95%CI,-1.5 to-1.1). No significant differences were seen between estradiol (P = .25) or moisturizer (P = .31) compared with placebo. Mean total FSFI improvement was similar between estradiol (5.4; 95%CI, 4.0 to 6.9) and placebo (4.5; 95%CI, 2.8 to 6.1) (P = .64), and between moisturizer (3.1; 95%CI, 1.7 to 4.5) and placebo (P = .17). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Our results suggest that neither prescribed vaginal estradiol tablet nor over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer provides additional benefit over placebo vaginal tablet and gel in reducing postmenopausal vulvovaginal symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-690
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA internal medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
consultant for Symbiomix Therapeutics. Dr Reed receives grant support from Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Dr LaCroix has served on a scientific advisory board for Sermonix, Inc. No other disclosures are reported. Funding/Support: This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging (5R01AG048209). Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The sponsor had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of 'Efficacy of vaginal estradiol or vaginal moisturizer vs placebo for treating postmenopausal vulvovaginal symptoms a randomized clinical trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this