Amantadine and rimantadine for preventing and treating influenza A in adults

  • Review
  • Intervention


  • T Jefferson,

  • JJ Deeks,

  • V Demicheli,

  • D Rivetti,

  • M Rudin

Prof Tom Jefferson, Via Adige 28a, Anguillara Sabazia, Roma, 00061, ITALY.



Amantadine hydrochloride and rimantadine hydrochloride have antiviral properties, but these drugs are not widely used due to a lack of knowledge of their potential value and concerns about possible adverse effects.


The objective of this review was to assess the effectiveness and safety ("effects") of amantadine and rimantadine in healthy adults.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2003), MEDLINE (January 1966 to November week 2, 2003), EMBASE (January 1990 to September 2003) and the reference lists of articles. We also contacted manufacturers, researchers and authors.

Selection criteria

Randomised and quasi-randomised studies comparing amantadine and/or rimantadine with placebo, control antivirals or no intervention, or comparing doses or schedules of amantadine and/or rimantadine in healthy adults.

Data collection and analysis

For prevention trials the numbers of participants with clinical influenza (influenza-like-illness or ILI), i.e. confirmed influenza A, and adverse effects were analysed. Analysis for treatment trials included the mean duration of fever and length of hospital stay, and the number of adverse effects.

Main results

Amantadine prevented 25% of ILI cases (95% confidence interval (CI) 13% to 36%), and 61% of influenza A cases (95% CI 35% to 76%). Amantadine reduced duration of fever by one day (95% CI 0.7 to 1.3). Rimantadine demonstrated comparable effectiveness, but there were fewer trials and the results for prevention were not statistically significant. Both amantadine and rimantadine induced significant gastrointestinal adverse effects. Adverse effects of the central nervous system and study withdrawals were significantly more common with amantadine than rimantadine.

Authors' conclusions

Amantadine and rimantadine have comparable effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of influenza A in healthy adults, although rimantadine causes fewer adverse effects than amantadine.

[This abstract was prepared centrally.]

Plain language summary

Plain language summary

The drugs amantadine and rimantadine both help to prevent and relieve influenza A in adults, but amantadine has more adverse effects

The 'flu' (influenza) can be caused by many different viruses. One type is influenza A, which causes headaches, coughs and runny noses that can last for many days and lead to serious illnesses such as pneumonia. Amantadine and rimantadine are antiviral drugs. The review of trials found that both drugs are similarly helpful in preventing and treating influenza A in adults, but only when there is a high probability that the cause of the flu is influenza A (a known epidemic, for example). Both drugs have adverse gastrointestinal (stomach and gut) effects, but amantadine can also have serious effects on the nervous system.