Objective: To compare the efficacy of zinc acetate lozenges with zinc gluconate lozenges in common cold treatment and to examine the dose-dependency of the effect.
Setting: Placebo-controlled zinc lozenge trials, in which the zinc dose was > 75 mg/day. The pooled effect of zinc lozenges on common cold duration was calculated by using inverse-variance random-effects method.
Participants: Seven randomised trials with 575 participants with naturally acquired common colds.
Main outcome measure: Duration of the common cold.
Results: The mean common cold duration was 33% (95% CI 21% to 45%) shorter for the zinc groups of the seven included trials. Three trials that used lozenges composed of zinc acetate found that colds were shortened by 40% and four trials that used zinc gluconate by 28%. The difference between the two salts was not significant: 12 percentage points (95% CI: -12 to + 36). Five trials used zinc doses of 80-92 mg/day, common cold duration was reduced by 33%, and two trials used zinc doses of 192-207 mg/day and found an effect of 35%. The difference between the high-dose and low-dose zinc trials was not significant: 2 percentage points (95% CI: -29 to + 32).
Conclusions: Properly composed zinc gluconate lozenges may be as effective as zinc acetate lozenges. There is no evidence that zinc doses over 100 mg/day might lead to greater efficacy in the treatment of the common cold. Common cold patients may be encouraged to try zinc lozenges for treating their colds. The optimal lozenge composition and dosage scheme need to be investigated further.
Keywords: common cold; randomised controlled trials; respiratory tract infections; therapeutic equivalency.