Zinc Acetate Lozenges May Improve the Recovery Rate of Common Cold Patients: An Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis

  • Harri Hemilä, James T. Fitzgerald, Edward J. Petrus, Ananda Prasad
  • Open Forum Infectious Diseases, January 2017, Oxford University Press (OUP)
  • DOI: 10.1093/ofid/ofx059

Zinc lozenges may triple the recovery rate of common cold patients

What is it about?

Three zinc acetate lozenge trials found on average a 3.1-fold increase in the rate of recovery from the common cold. On the 5th day, 70% of the zinc patients had recovered compared with 27% of the placebo patients. Two of the trials administered zinc lozenges within 24 hours from the onset of symptoms; thus the strongest evidence of benefit is from rapid initiation of treatment after the onset of the symptoms. In addition, the rate of recovery from the common cold was increased by 3.5-fold and 2.8-fold in two zinc gluconate trials.

Why is it important?

The common cold is the leading cause of acute morbidity and of visits to a physician in high-income countries, and a major cause of absenteeism from work and school. The economic burden of the common cold is comparable to that of hypertension or stroke. Therefore a 3-fold increase in the rate of recovery from the common cold is a relevant effect.


Dr Harri Hemila
Helsingin Yliopisto

Given the strong evidence of efficacy and the low risk of adverse effects, common cold patients may be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges not exceeding 100 mg of elemental zinc per day for treating their colds soon after the onset of symptoms. The optimal formulation of zinc lozenges and the most efficacious frequency of their administration should be further examined.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Harri Hemila