Popular cold and flu medicines should be pulled as they dont work

Decongestants' links to brain conditions discussed by Dr Zoe

An expert has warned that popular cold and flu remedies containing a common ingredient should be pulled from shelves, as it doesn’t work – as experts have also warned about another decongestant which could cause strokes.

The Director of France’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM), Christelle Ratignier-Carbonneil, gave a grave warning over a decongestant that has already been ruled as dangerous by health authorities.

“The message is clear — do not use them,” said Christelle Ratignier-Carbonneil. “We do not risk getting a stroke for a stuffy nose.”

Concerns about the ingredient pseudoephedrine, used in cold and flu medicines, were first raised over a decade ago. Reports were circulating linking pseudoephedrine to strokes and heart attacks.

In France, public access to pseudoephedrine was tightened in 2020.

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The US also has a tight hold on the sale of pseudoephedrine as the ingredient can be turned into meth.

For the same reason, the UK followed suit and restricted its sale in 2008. This forced many manufacturers to pivot from pseudoephedrine to phenylephrine. However, has now also warned that the replacement for the dangerous infredient doesn’t work and should be pulled.

Professor Ron Eccles, based at Cardiff University, said: “Phenylephrine is an ineffective nasal decongestant when taken orally because it is metabolised in the gut and liver before it reaches the nose.

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“My view is that [oral] phenylephrine products should be discontinued in the UK as they do not provide any decongestion.”

Professor Eccles told MailOnline: “However, nasal decongestant sprays are effective and work within minutes and the decongestion lasts for eight hours.”

Phenylephrine was deemed ineffective by the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) panel of advisors last month.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently carrying out an investigation and will announce its recommendation in December.

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The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is “reviewing available evidence” to see if sale rules in the UK need to change.

This could, in theory, mean cough and cold remedies like like Day and Night Nurse Cold and Flu and Benadryl Plus Capsules are pulled from shelves.

Dr Alison Cave, MHRA chief safety officer, told MailOnline: “Patient safety is our top priority.

“All available data is carefully considered when authorising any medicine and we continue to closely monitor all medicines for safety and effectiveness following authorisation, to ensure the benefits outweigh any risks.”

Dr Cave added: “There have been no new safety concerns identified with phenylephrine-containing products and people can continue to use as directed.

“If you have any concerns about a medicine you are taking, please seek advice from a healthcare professional.”

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