Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis

  • Zinc acetate lozenges and the common cold
  • Harri Hemilä, Edward J. Petrus, James T. Fitzgerald, Ananda Prasad
  • British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, July 2016, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1111/bcp.13057

Zinc acetate lozenges may shorten common cold duration by 3 days

What is it about?

Interest in zinc lozenges for common cold treatment started from the serendipitous observation that the cold symptoms of a 3-year-old girl with leukemia disappeared when she slowly dissolved a therapeutic zinc tablet in her mouth instead of swallowing it. This led to a series of randomized trials which found conflicting results. However, negative findings were largely explained by low doses of zinc. Most trials with large doses of zinc found benefit from zinc lozenges. This paper pooled the results of three high-dose zinc acetate trials with 199 patients in total.

Why is it important?

The mean duration of colds in the 3 included trials was 7 days. The mean effect of 3 day reduction in common cold duration with zinc acetate lozenges is clinically relevant and appears widely applicable, since the effect was not modified by allergy, smoking, baseline common cold severity, age, gender or ethnic group.


Dr Harri Hemila
Helsingin Yliopisto

The common cold is a leading cause of acute morbidity and of visits to a physician and a major cause of absenteeism from work and school. The optimal composition of zinc lozenges and the best frequency of their administration should be investigated. Nevertheless, given the current evidence of efficacy and the low rate of adverse effects, common cold patients may be encouraged to try zinc acetate lozenges for treating their colds.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Harri Hemila