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FDA: Drug found in common cold and allergy medication not effective

The good news is this ingredient is not harmful ... it's just not effective.

ST. LOUIS — The FDA said a common ingredient found in many cold and allergy medications is not effective. It's called phenylephrine and claims to help with congestion.

For more than 15 years, the drug phenylephrine has been in allergy and cold medicines such as Claritin-D and Nyquil to help with congestion.

“All five studies that were presented, failed to show any benefit with nasal congestion,” Saint Louis University professor Dr. Mark Dykewicz said.

Dykewicz said the medical community questioned the drug for years.

“When you take a dose orally of the medication, only about 1% of it is actually reaching the general circulation. So it was thought that [it] was probably too low a concentration to expect it to be of any value,” Dykewicz said.

However, studies show there are benefits when phenylephrine is used in a nose spray.

Beverly Hills pharmacist Jerry Kemp said natural remedies can also help.

“Non[medical] alternatives like the netty pot, which is a sinus rinse. There are a couple of products that have a sodium or a salt solution that you could rinse your nose out with,” Kemp said. 

Kemp said the only drug left standing to help with congestion is pseudoephedrine, but there are some barriers to that.

“In a lot of communities, it's a prescription item, so it's not as readily available. So in that case, I would just recommend if you have a physician that you see on a regular basis, perhaps get a prescription for something if you know you're going to need it,” Kemp said.

But don’t expect these over-the-counter medications to disappear from the shelves, when it comes to combination medications like Dayquil the other ingredients are still helpful.

“They might have to reformulate those products and there might be a period of time where they're not available. It's going to affect a lot of products and it's going to affect a lot of people,” Kemp said.

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