Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Little Support for the Efficacy of OTC Cough Medicines

Bottle of cough syrup, and expectorantYesterday, I was in the cinema and the children next to me spent a remarkable amount of time reclining back in their seats so that they could cough with what seemed like remarkable accuracy, right across my mouth and eyes. Today, in the supermarket, I queued behind a woman who spent 10.81 pounds on two different bottles of over-the-counter (OTC) cough mixture and a box of cold remedy powders for her children. She and her partner disagreed whether about the type of cough so she had bought both types of cough medicine to be sure.

Although the majority of cough research has been conducted with adults, there is little doubt that for children, chronic cough can be debilitating. Even without doubling up on the medicine, acute cough can also be very disruptive and expensive.

The British Thoracic Society says that is a frequently reported finding that there is no support for the belief that OTC medications have any pharmacological impact on acute coughs. (We no longer have access to the patent cough syrups of old with extraordinary ingredients that definitely had a pharmacological impact, I'm not saying that it was a good one, or that it directly acted on your cough, but it had an impact.) Speaking about the efficacy of OTC medications, earlier this year, Dr Richard Russell, of the BTS, said:
Over-the-counter (OTC) sales for acute cough medicines currently reach approximately £100m a year in the UK - money that is being spent on remedies, where evidence regarding their effectiveness is inconclusive.
The authors acknowledge that people often report a positive effect when taking cough medicines. However, having evaluated a range of studies, the reviewers conclude that although there is some evidence to indicate that medicines can suppress a cough, there is little indication that they can treat it successfully.

Nonetheless, some people find it sufficient that their OTC medicine suppresses their symptoms enough for them to be able to continue uninterrupted with their day to day routines. However, there are other ways of alleviating cough symptoms that might be effective with children and I shall write these up tomorrow.

For more information about the image used in the illustration, click on it or visit the detail on Flickr.


Blogger purple_kangaroo said...

I look forward to reading about the effective ways to help cough symptoms. Very timely for our household. Do you have anything about sneezing, too?

8:50 am  
Blogger Shinga said...

Hello Purple Kangaroo,

Sneezing is trickier. Most of the methods that we use for sneezes involve techniques for which we really need to know somebody's medical history. I'll incorporate the general advice about sneezes but it is not as comprehensive as the advice for coughing.

Sorry to hear that your household is in coughing mode.

Regards - Shinga

12:55 pm  
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