Comparison of efficacy, safety, and skin test inhibition of cetirizine and astemizole.Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1996 Apr; 76(4):363-8.AA
Astemizole, an H1-histamine-receptor antagonist prescribed for seasonal allergic rhinitis, has a slow onset of action and a strong suppressive effect on the wheal and flare reaction, which interferes with skin testing results. The newer antihistamine cetirizine appears to have a rapid onset of action and a low potential to interfere with posttreatment skin testing results.
To compare the efficacy, safety, and skin test inhibition of astemizole and cetirizine in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis.
In a double-blind, parallel-group study conducted at six sites during ragweed pollination season, 263 subjects were randomized to receive 10 mg of astemizole, 5 mg of cetirizine, or 10 mg of cetirizine daily for 2 weeks. The subjects rated seven allergic rhinitis symptoms daily, the subjects and investigators provided global assessments of the responses to the treatments, and the subjects rated their satisfaction with the treatments. Thirty-nine subjects at one study site underwent quantitative skin testing before and after treatment.
As measured by reduction from baseline in total symptom severity score, which was the primary efficacy measure in the study, all three treatments significantly relieved the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (P less than .05). This finding was supported by the global ratings and the subject satisfaction ratings. There were no significant differences among the three treatments for reduction from baseline in total symptom severity score. The mean subject satisfaction score with 10 mg of cetirizine was significantly greater than that with astemizole (P less than .05). In the skin tests performed 3, 7, and 14 days after the end of antihistamine treatment, the subjects who had received the cetirizine doses had significantly greater mean sum of wheal and mean sum of erythema values than those who had received the astemizole dose (P less than .05). Sensitivity to ragweed pollen extract returned to 90% of baseline within three days of the end of cetirizine treatment. Both drugs were well tolerated and their adverse event profiles were similar.
Astemizole and cetirizine are effective and well tolerated in alleviating the symptoms of ragweed-induced allergic rhinitis. Cetirizine inhibits skin test results to a much lesser extent than does astemizole. Physicians may wish to consider the potential for skin test inhibition when selecting an antihistamine for patients with allergic rhinitis.