Why Over-The-Counter Cold and Flu Tablets May Not Work for Congestion
If you’re battling serious congestion this flu season, you may need to get out your driver’s license to purchase effective medication. Over-the-counter cold and flu tablets may not provide the relief you need, despite their widespread availability.
The Problem with Phenylephrine
Most over-the-counter cold and flu tablets contain a mix of paracetamol and phenylephrine, which is included as a decongestant to help with clogged-up noses and sinuses. However, several studies have found that phenylephrine doesn’t enter the bloodstream in large enough amounts to provide any decongestant benefit.
US pharmaceutical manufacturer Schering-Plough funded a 2006 study that found phenylephrine was “not significantly different from placebo.” In 2015, researchers in Florida filed a citizen’s petition to the American FDA calling for oral phenylephrine to stop being marketed as a decongestant.
Pseudoephedrine vs Phenylephrine
Pseudoephedrine, the drug in behind-the-counter cold and flu medications, is considered an effective decongestant. However, it is also considered an “illicit drug precursor” and can be used to manufacture hardcore amphetamines such as meth and speed.
To combat this, the Project STOP database was created in Australia to log the identification details of anyone buying pseudoephedrine products. Chemist shops can opt-in to the system to identify unusually high purchase frequency and crack down on pseudo-runners.
Why is Phenylephrine Still Being Marketed?
Efforts abroad to change the way phenylephrine is marketed have been met with resistance. The FDA in the US claims the issue requires further investigation, while the TGA in Australia stands by the product, claiming it has a long history of use in cough and cold medicines.
However, with Covid cases on the rise and this year’s flu season predicted to be severe, it may be worth keeping your driver’s license handy to purchase effective medication.
– Over-the-counter cold and flu tablets may not provide relief for congestion
– Phenylephrine doesn’t enter the bloodstream in large enough amounts to be effective
– Pseudoephedrine is an effective decongestant but is also an illicit drug precursor
– Efforts to change the way phenylephrine is marketed have been met with resistance
– Keeping your driver’s license handy may be necessary to purchase effective medication