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Children's Cough and Cold Medicines Restricted in Britain

Mar 29, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Cough and cold medicines for children under the age of two are being pulled from Great Britain shelves immediately.  At least 100 products will be put under the counter while parents are warned about the danger of giving toddlers potentially fatal overdoses.  This means that many popular medicines will be banned for children under the age of two and parents of children up to the age of six will have to ask for the products specifically.  Some feel the move could signal a return to old-fashioned remedies such as honey and lemon drinks.

Some of the best-selling brands affected include Tixylix, Robitussin, Benylin, and Calpol and the alert involves 12 ingredients in the medicines, many of which have been used by drug firms for years.  At least five deaths of British children under two have been linked to cough and cold medications and over 100 serious cases of suspected adverse reactions have been reported.  A similar warning was issued in here in the US earlier this year following the US government’s first national estimate of the problem wherein about 7,000 children are sent to hospital emergency rooms every year with about two-thirds of the children taking medicines without supervision and one-quarter falling ill when their parents dosed them properly.  In those cases, children developed an allergic reaction or some other problem according to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The CDC studied both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications.

Today, six products directly targeted at children under two will be removed from open sale in Britain, although they may be supplied by a pharmacist for use in older children.  They include Boots Chesty Cough Syrup 1 Year Plus and Asda Children's Chesty Cough Syrup.   Another 59 products, authorized for use in children under two but not marketed to them, will be taken off the shelf and sold only to parents whose children are older.  An additional 58 products aimed at children aged two to six will also be removed.  Anyone buying any of the 117 products will be instructed on the exact dose to be given.  Manufacturers will re-label and re-package products so they can go back on normal sale.

Parents will also be told to use temperature-lowering drugs such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat babies and toddlers suffering cold symptoms and will also be advised to use a simple cough syrup such as glycerol, honey, or lemon, with vapor rubs for a stuffy nose.  Parents of children under two who have any of the affected products at home will be advised to take them to a pharmacist or back to where they bought them.  Those with children between two and six are being urged to seek advice before using such products.  The updated advice comes from the drug safety watchdog, the Commission on Human Medicines.  None of the medicines has been shown to be dangerous when used correctly; however, there has been growing concern parents may accidentally overdose children, because they either miscalculate dosing or use additional doses to ensure the medicine works.

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