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Monday, January 09, 2006

Doctors warn against using cough syrups

Doctors are warning that a commonly-used remedy --cough syrups -- may not work.

The American College of Chest Physicians has reviewed dozens of studies of cough syrups and concluded "(there's) little efficacy in patients with coughs due to upper respiratory infections. Their long-term effectiveness has not been established."

The dose of drugs in over-the-counter cough syrups are generally too low to be effective or contain combinations of drugs that have never been proven to treat coughs, said Dr. Richard Irwin, chairman of a cough guidelines committee for the American College of Chest Physicians.

"Some of the products contain medications that have no chance of working at all," Irwin said.

About 40 per cent of adult Canadians use cough medicine annually, Gerry Harrington of the Non Prescription Drug Manufacturers of Canada told Canadians spend about $100 million annually on these medicines.

Coughs are classified as either acute (lasting less than three weeks) or chronic (lasting three to eight weeks or longer). Acute coughs are usually caused by the common cold while chronic coughs are caused by post-nasal drip syndrome, asthma or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The ACCP has issued guidelines on managing coughs, in the January issue of their journal Chest.

These guidelines discourage use of newer, non-sedating antihistamines.


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