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Original Contribution
July 7, 1999

Zanamivir in the Prevention of Influenza Among Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Drs Monto and Herlocher); University of Missouri, Columbia (Drs Robinson and Hinson); Glaxo Wellcome Inc, Research Triangle Park, NC (Dr Elliot); and Glaxo Wellcome Inc, Greenford, England (Dr Crisp).

JAMA. 1999;282(1):31-35. doi:10.1001/jama.282.1.31

Context The neuraminidase inhibitor zanamivir, a sialic acid analog administered directly to the respiratory tract, has been demonstrated in clinical studies to be effective in treatment of type A and B influenza. It has also been shown to prevent influenza infection and disease in an experimental model.

Objective To examine the efficacy of zanamivir, administered once daily, in the prevention of influenza infection and disease.

Design Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

Setting Two midwestern university communities.

Participants A total of 1107 healthy adults (mean age [range], 29 [18-69] years) were recruited in November 1997, before the influenza season.

Intervention At the start of the influenza outbreak, 554 subjects were randomized to receive placebo and 553 to receive zanamivir. The drug, 10 mg once per day, or identical placebo was administered by oral inhalation for a 4-week period.

Main Outcome Measures Illness occurrence was recorded by participants daily and records were evaluated weekly. Specimens were collected for viral isolation when symptoms were reported within 3 days of illness onset. Infection was also identified by testing paired serum samples for rise in antibody titer against the circulating influenza viruses.

Results Zanamivir was 67% efficacious (95% confidence interval [CI], 39%-83%; P<.001) in preventing laboratory-confirmed clinical influenza meeting the case definition and 84% efficacious (95% CI, 55%-94%; P=.001) in preventing laboratory-confirmed illnesses with fever. All influenza infections occurring during the season, with or without symptoms, were prevented with an efficacy of 31% (95% CI, 4%-50%; P=.03). The nature and incidence of adverse events in the zanamivir group did not differ from placebo. Compliance with the once-daily dosage was high.

Conclusions Zanamivir administered once daily is efficacious and well tolerated in the prevention of influenza for a 4-week period in healthy adults.