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Growing Evidence Shows Over-the-Counter Cold Medicine Doesn't Really Work

When you or your kids get a stuffy nose, there’s likely an over-the-counter cold medicine you turn to. But several doctors and pharmacists say there is growing evidence they don’t really work.

Citing several studies, they say some versions of Benadryl, Mucinex and Tylenol are among those that rely on an ingredient called phenylephrine to clear up stuffy noses.

The ingredient is proven to be safe, but at least four studies concluded that the medicines don’t actually relieve congestion.

Two doctors groups are now calling on the FDA to pull the meds from store shelves.

“I think we should really look at the data and see if what they’re claiming is true,” said Dr. Julie Yong Kim, RAMBLC pediatric in Los Gatos. 

This doesn’t include things like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Only the ones with the added ingredient, phenylephrine.

“We don’t, we don’t recommend that for our patients and we haven’t for over 20 years,” said Kim. 

Dr. James Wolfe went a step further saying he agrees with those calling for over the counter medicine with phenylephrine to be removed from store shelves.

“I believe that if there was an application for approval with the FDA today, it would never be approved for a number of reasons. First, it has limited benefits. Second, it has a long list of adverse effects,” said Wolfe. 

He says it can elevate blood pressure and cause insomnia.

He recommends an antihistamine and a day or two of Afrin spray instead.

“When you take into account all of those side effects, how little efficacy it has, I see no role for this drug in patients who have a cold,” said Wolfe. 

Johnson and Johnson, which sells Tylenol and Benadryl, said in a statement in part, “Phenylephrine (PE) is a well-established decongestant, recognized to be safe and effective at specified doses by the FDA. As with all our products, we will continue to evaluate the latest science, product safety profile, and information from regulatory authorities on PE.”  

Again, the studies didn’t find the over the counter meds did any harm, just that they don’t work as decongestants.

Dr. Kim says still, she recommends saline spray for stuffy noses and to consult your doctor.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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