Background: Allergic rhinitis is a common disease altering quality of life. Its treatment is well established and guidelines have been proposed. However, their efficacy has never been tested. The aim of the study was to validate the guidelines of the International Consensus on Rhinitis in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Methods: A multicenter, multinational, open label, parallel, randomized study compared two therapeutic strategies in seasonal allergic rhinitis during a 3-week treatment. General practitioners were randomized into two groups. In the first group of 224 patients, doctors followed guidelines from the International Consensus on Rhinitis. Depending on the severity of nasal and ocular symptoms defined using visual analogue scales, patients received ebastine (an oral antihistamine), triamcinolone acetonide (a topical corticosteroid) and/or ophthalmic nedocromil sodium (a topical ocular cromone). In the second group of 241 patients, general practitioners had a free choice of treatment. The primary efficacy end points were quality of life measured using the standardized rhinoconjunctivitis quality of life questionnaire (RQLQ) and the symptom-medication scores assessed daily with an electronic dairy system.
Results: Adjusted mean total symptom scores over 21 days were 4.93 in the guidelines strategy group compared with 7.48 in the free-choice treatment group (P = 0.0001). Mean total scores in the RQLQ decreased by 2.19 in the guidelines group compared with a decrease of 1.79 in the free-choice treatment group (P = 0.0001). At 21 days, the least square mean difference in improvement in overall scores for RQLQ in the guidelines group compared with the free-choice treatment group was 0.53, which was greater than the minimal important difference.
Conclusions: Patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis often present severe symptoms which are not well recognized or controlled by physicians using their own criteria of severity and treatment. Using a simple method for the evaluation of the severity and a simple therapeutic scheme based on International Guidelines, patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis presented a significant improvement by comparison with those receiving a non-standardized treatment.