Objective: To evaluate how well the medications currently approved in the United States for allergic rhinitis (AR) treat nasal symptoms when examined according to Food and Drug Administration-indicated uses and dosages.
Data sources: MEDLINE (1966 onward), EMBASE (1974 onward), and the Cochrane Library (2007) were systematically searched according to the following criteria defined at a roundtable meeting of the authors: randomized controlled trial, at least a 2-week duration, and approved indication and dosage in the United States.
Study selection: Data from studies that met the inclusion criteria were extracted into evidence tables, which were reviewed twice by the full panel of authors. Individual panel members also were asked to comment on abstracts, articles, and summary tables based on their known expertise. The entire faculty approved the selection of studies included in this review.
Results: Fifty-four randomized, placebo-controlled studies involving more than 14,000 adults and 1,580 children with AR met the criteria for review: 38 studies of seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR; n = 11,980 adults and 946 children) and 12 studies of perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR; n = 3,800 adults and 366 children). The median percentage changes from baseline for total nasal symptom score for SAR were as follows: nasal antihistamines, -22.2%; oral antihistamines, -23.5%; intranasal steroids (INSs), -40.7%; and placebo, -15.0%. For PAR, the changes were as follows: oral antihistamines, -51.4%; INSs, -37.3%; and placebo, -24.8%. Data for mediator antagonists were limited.
Conclusions: The data, although limited, confirm that INSs produce the greatest improvements in nasal symptoms in patients with SAR. In addition, INSs are effective for PAR, but the data were of variable quality, and oral antihistamines may be equally effective for some patients. The reporting of published data should be standardized to permit better comparisons in future studies.