Cold and flu season is now upon us.
CBS talks about new recommendations on which medications you should take this season.
Should we be taking over the counter medicines?
“We spend $8 billion a year on over-the-counter cold medicines. But a recent study finds the active ingredient in many nasal decongestants commonly taken for colds is no more effective than a placebo,” according to CBS news.
When was the study published?
It came out in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice; it looked at the effectiveness of phenylephrine hydrochloride, widely used in over-the-counter treatments for nasal congestion.
The study involved 539 adults with symptoms of nasal congestion from seasonal allergies. People involved in the study were given different doses of PE HCl or a placebo for 7 days. The team found that when consumed orally in FDA-approved doses of up to 40 mg every 4 hours, the drug surprisingly proved no better than a sugar pill at decreasing symptoms.
Experts are saying if you remember older versions of decongestants working better than what's on the shelf today, you are onto something. Older over-the-counter medicines actually worked better.
Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, a clinical associate professor at NYU School of Medicine, commented on the study. She said, “A lot of these medications used to use pseudoephedrine, a different chemical -- it's what's found in Sudafed, for example.”
Since pseudoephedrine was being abused by people who bought it in bulk to process into meth, in 2005 federal regulators passed a law adding new restrictions on its sale. Now those medicines are only available behind the counter and you need a valid ID and signature to buy them. Any cold medicine that is on the counter does not contain pseudoephedrine.
Dr. Nampiaparampil also told CBS news,
“Instead, they've been using phenylephrine now in a lot of the over-the-counter decongestants. The problem is, if it doesn't work as well, what's the point of people spending so much money on those medications and then still having the symptoms?”
Dr. Nampiaparampil also sheds light on the fact that previous studies have come to different conclusions and found the drugs do help; so more research will be necessary.
She pointed out the fact that just because this is new research that does not mean it is better research.
She said that ‘In the past, people thought phenylephrine was effective. So what they have to do is take out all the studies and really compare what was done in the past with what was done now’.
Dr. Nampiaparampil said the bottom line here is that none of these medicines can cure the common cold.