Oral Phenylephrine HCl for Nasal Congestion in Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized, Open-label, Placebo-controlled Study

J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2015 Sep-Oct;3(5):702-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2015.05.007. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


Background: Phenylephrine hydrochloride (PE HCl) is widely used for the treatment of nasal congestion, but efficacy at the 10-mg dose is not known for certain. The Food and Drug Administration has requested that sufficiently powered, multicenter, dose-ranging studies be conducted to assess the efficacy and safety of PE HCl.

Objective: To evaluate subjective nasal congestion symptom relief and safety of 4 different doses of PE HCl immediate-release 10-mg tablets and placebo in adults with seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR).

Methods: This multicenter, phase 2, parallel, open-label trial randomized 539 adults with SAR (but otherwise healthy) to 7 days of treatment with either PE HCl 10-mg tablets at fixed doses of 10, 20, 30, or 40 mg or placebo. The primary efficacy end point was the mean change from baseline over the entire treatment period in daily reflective nasal congestion score. Other efficacy end points and safety were also evaluated.

Results: None of the PE HCl treatment groups had a statistically significant change from baseline in instantaneous or reflective nasal congestion scores compared with the placebo group. PE HCl was well tolerated at doses of up to 30 mg. At least 1 treatment-emergent adverse event was experienced by 18.4% of the participants, the most common being headache (3.0%).

Conclusions: PE HCl, at doses of up to 40 mg every 4 hours, is not significantly better than placebo at relieving nasal congestion in adults with SAR. The phenylephrine section of the Food and Drug Administration monograph on over-the-counter cold, cough, allergy, bronchodilator, and antiasthmatic products should be revised accordingly.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01330017.

Keywords: Dose-ranging trial; Nasal congestion; Oral decongestant; Phenylephrine HCl; Seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Dosage Calculations
  • Female
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Decongestants / administration & dosage*
  • Nasal Decongestants / adverse effects
  • Nasal Obstruction / drug therapy*
  • Nasal Obstruction / immunology
  • Phenylephrine / administration & dosage*
  • Phenylephrine / adverse effects
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / drug therapy*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / immunology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Young Adult


  • Nasal Decongestants
  • Phenylephrine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01330017