Context: Previous studies have shown oseltamivir, a neuraminidase inhibitor, to be effective in preventing influenza and treating experimental influenza.
Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of oseltamivir in the treatment of naturally acquired influenza infection.
Design: Randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted January through March 1998.
Setting: Sixty primary care and university health centers throughout the United States.
Participants: A total of 629 healthy nonimmunized adults aged 18 to 65 years with febrile respiratory illness of no more than 36 hours' duration with temperature of 38 degrees C or more plus at least 1 respiratory symptom and 1 constitutional symptom.
Interventions: Individuals were randomized to 1 of 3 treatment groups with identical appearing pills: oral oseltamivir phosphate, 75 mg twice daily (n = 211) or 150 mg (n = 209) twice daily, or placebo (n = 209).
Main outcome measures: Duration and severity of illness in individuals infected with influenza.
Results: Two individuals withdrew before receiving medication and were excluded from further analyses. A total of 374 individuals (59.6%) were infected with influenza. Their duration of illness was reduced by more than 30% with both oseltamivir, 75 mg twice daily (median, 71.5 hours; P < .001), and oseltamivir, 150 mg twice daily (median, 69.9 hours; P = .006), compared with placebo (median, 103.3 hours). Severity of illness was reduced by 38% (median score, 597 score-hours; P < .001) with oseltamivir, 75 mg twice daily, and by 35% (median score, 626 score-hours; P < .001) with oseltamivir, 150 mg twice daily, vs placebo (median score, 963 score-hours). Oseltamivir treatment reduced the duration of fever and oseltamivir recipients returned to usual activities 2 to 3 days earlier than placebo recipients (P < or = .05). Secondary complications such as bronchitis and sinusitis occurred in 15% of placebo recipients compared with 7% of combined oseltamivir recipients (P = .03). Among all 629 subjects, oseltamivir reduced illness duration (76.3 hours and 74.3 hours for 75 mg and 150 mg, respectively, vs 97.0 hours for placebo; P = .004 for both comparisons) and illness severity (686 score-hours and 629 score-hours for 75 mg and 150 mg, respectively, vs 887 score-hours for placebo; P < .001 for both comparisons). Nausea and vomiting occurred more frequently in both oseltamivir groups (combined, 18.0% and 14.1%, respectively; P = .002) than in the placebo group (7.4% and 3.4%; P < .001).
Conclusions: Our data suggest that oral oseltamivir treatment reduces the duration and severity of acute influenza in healthy adults and may decrease the incidence of secondary complications.