Cough Medicine may not be Helpful

A study shows cough medicines may not be effective for patients with acute cough.

Over-the-counter cough medicines are commonly used as a first line treatment in patients with acute cough. Researchers from the University of Bristol in England reviewed 15 trials that compared over-the-counter cough medicines to a placebo in adults with cough symptoms due to upper respiratory tract infections. Combined, there were 2,166 participants in the trials. There were several different types of drugs used in the studies.

Upon reviewing the studies, researchers found, in 9 out of the 15 trials, the cough medicine used was no better at alleviating cough than a placebo and they write, “The positive results in the other six studies were of questionable clinical relevance.” All of the cough medicines studied were generally well tolerated and did not lead to serious adverse effects.

Researchers conclude: “It remains unclear whether over-the-counter cough preparations are helpful in acute cough. We, therefore, cannot yet recommend these medicines as first line treatment for cough associated with upper respiratory tract infection.” They also point out the use of such medications may be an unnecessary expense.

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