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Cough medicine

Popular OTC medicines so dangerous that only doctors should prescribe them, says FDA

Thursday, September 02, 2010 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: cough medicine, prescriptions, health news

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(NaturalNews) Some popular cough medicines and pain relievers could become available by prescription only if an independent panel determines that such action should be taken. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a report about the dangers of dextromethorphan, a popular drug ingredient in many non-prescription cough and flu medicines, and is considering banning the drug from store shelves.

According to the report, dextromethorphan "is sought after by those seeking to alter their mental state" because it exerts a psychoactive effect on its users. Though the drug is abused less than codeine, another popular brain-altering drug, dextromethorphan sent roughly 8,000 people to the emergency room in 2008. This is nearly twice the amount it sent in 2004.

What typically occurs is people buy cough medicines and take many times the recommended dose in order to get high. The practice is popular particularly among teenagers, and overdosing on the drug can severely increase blood pressure and heart rate, and can also cause high fevers. And other drugs in cough medicines, such as acetaminophen, only exasperate the problem by bearing heavily on the liver.

If the panel decides to pull dextromethorphan from shelves, the effects will be widespread. Hundreds of different drugs, including Wyeth's Dimetapp, Bayer's Alka-Seltzer Flu Plus and Proctor and Gamble's Vicks cough medicines, all contain the drug, and would have to be either reformulated or sold through pharmacies.

Other options being considered include restricting the sale of medicines with dextromethorphan to only people 18 years of age and older, or simply placing such medicines behind the sale counter to discourage illegitimate buyers from seeking them. Either way, current laws will have to be updated to reflect any potential changes.

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