Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Popular over-the-counter allergy pills might not do anything for congestion, FDA says


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – You may want to think twice before reaching for an over-the-counter cold or allergy pill if you are feeling congested.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel said that the leading decongestant used by millions of Americans looking for relief from a stuffy nose is no better than a dummy pill.

The ingredient in question is called phenylephrine.

It is found in a number of popular drugs and has been sold in various forms for more than 75 years.

But this new evidence suggests when it’s taken orally, it doesn’t actually work.

“It’s not surprising. We’ve somewhat known that it’s not very effective,” Steve Hadley, the owner of Kirby Whitten Pharmacy in Bartlett said.

“We need to go with what’s effective, and if you’re not getting effectiveness out of it, then there’s no reason to waste your money and buy it,” he said.

Phenylephrine is found in popular versions of Sudafed, Dayquil and other medications stocked on store shelves.

It was originally thought to relieve congestion by reducing the swelling of blood vessels in the nasal passages.

But new evidence suggests when it’s taken orally, only a very small amount of the drug actually reaches the nose to relieve congestion.

The FDA’s panel’s vote means that companies that sell the drug could be forced to pull the products or reformulate them into more effective versions.

“None of these medicines actually cure your cold. They don’t help you get better more quickly. They simply help you manage the symptoms,” Dr. Sandy Arnold, the division chief of pediatric diseases at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital said.

Although there are some phenylephrine products that say they are formulated for children, Dr. Arnold said they may not be safe for young children.

“There have been serious adverse events, paradoxical reactions where children can get into real trouble taking these medications,” she said. “So, for many, many years, pediatricians have recommended against their use for young children.”

There are more effective decongestants with pseudoephedrine, but those medicines are kept behind pharmacy counters for safety reasons.

You just have to ask for them and may be required to sign for them.

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