Background: Use of some antiviral drugs for influenza infection is limited by potential rapid emergence of resistance. We studied the efficacy and safety of oseltamivir, the oral prodrug of the neuraminidase inhibitor GS4071, in adults with naturally acquired laboratory-confirmed influenza.
Methods: We did a randomised controlled trial of 726 previously healthy non-immunised adults with febrile influenza-like illness of up to 36 h duration. Patients were assigned oral oseltamivir 75 mg (n=243), oseltamivir 150 mg (n=245), or placebo (n=238) twice daily for 5 days. We assessed recovery by questionnaire and temperature recordings. The primary endpoint was time to resolution of illness in influenza-infected patients.
Findings: 475 (66%) patients had confirmed infection. Duration of illness was significantly shorter by 29 h (25% reduction, median duration 87.4 h [95% CI 73.3-104.7], p=0.02) with oseltamivir 75 mg and by 35 h (30%, 81.8 h [68.2-100.0], p=0.01) with oseltamivir 150 mg than with placebo (116.5 h [101.5-137.8]). The effect of oseltamivir was apparent within 24 h of the start of treatment. In patients treated within 24 h of symptom onset, symptoms were alleviated 43 h (37% reduction) and 47 h (40%) earlier with oseltamivir 75 mg and 150 mg, respectively, compared with placebo (75 mg 74.5 h [68.2-98.0], p=0.02; 150 mg 70.7 h [54.0-89.4], p=0.01; placebo 117.5 h [103.0-143.8]). Oseltamivir was associated with lower [corrected] symptom scores, less viral shedding, and improved health, activity, and sleep quality, and was well tolerated.
Interpretation: Oseltamivir was effective and well tolerated in the treatment of natural influenza infection in adults. The efficacy, tolerability, and ease of administration warrant further investigation in children, elderly patients, and at-risk patients.