CVS Health pulls some cough-and-cold treatments with ingredient deemed ineffective by doctors

Business

The drug store chain said it will remove a small number of oral decongestants that contain phenylephrine as the only active ingredient.

Customers walk to a CVS Pharmacy.
Customers walk to a CVS Pharmacy, Friday, Nov 4, 2022, in Boston. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, FIle

CVS Health is pulling from its shelves some cough-and-cold treatments that contain an ingredient that has been deemed ineffective by doctors and researchers.

The drug store chain said it will remove a small number of oral decongestants that contain phenylephrine as the only active ingredient. CVS also said it will still sell “many other oral cough and cold products to meet consumer needs.”

A company spokeswoman declined to elaborate on how many products will be removed when contacted by The Associated Press Friday morning.

CVS Health runs more than 9,000 stores in the United States. Representatives of its national rival, Walgreens, has not pulled any products.

  • Popular nasal decongestant doesn’t actually relieve congestion, FDA advisers say

A Walgreens spokeswoman said the company is monitoring the situation and partnering with its clinical integrity office and suppliers “on appropriate next steps.”

U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers voted unanimously last month against the effectiveness of phenylephrine, which is found in popular versions of Sudafed, Dayquil and other medications stocked on store shelves.

The FDA had asked its outside advisers to examine the long-questioned drug ingredient. Studies conducted in the past few years by the drugmakers Merck and Johnson & Johnson have shown no difference between phenylephrine medications and placebos for relieving congestion.

The FDA, which has not acted on the recommendation of its advisers, said the drug appears more effective when applied directly to the nose, in sprays or drops. Those products are not under review.

Phenylephrine had become the main drug in over-the-counter decongestants when medicines with an older ingredient — pseudoephedrine — were moved behind pharmacy counters. A 2006 law had forced the move because pseudoephedrine can be illegally processed into methamphetamine.

Those original versions of Sudafed and other medicines remain available without a prescription.

The CVS Health announcement comes shortly before another cold-and-flu season starts in the United States as winter sets in. Last year, an unusually fast start to the season led to shortages of Children’s Tylenol and other medications customers can purchase over-the-counter, or without a prescription.


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