Decongestant Found In Many Well-Known Cold And Allergy Medicines Doesn’t Actually Work, According To FDA Advisors


Many people get a cold or the flu every year. These illnesses are so common that we even call the fall and winter cold and flu season.

Getting a cold or the flu isn’t uncommon and neither is reaching for an over the counter medication to treat the most common symptoms, like a stuffy nose. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has announced a discovery that may change the way you treat the common cold, the flu and even seasonal allergies.

Sixteen advisors for the FDA all came to the same conclusion about an ingredient that is found in many common medications including Nyquil, Mucinex, Benadryl and Sudafed. The conclusion is that an ingredient known as phenylephrine does not do what it’s supposed to do.

Phenylephrine is included in these medications for the purpose of helping relieve one common symptom of the cold, flu and allergies, a stuffy nose. Now, the advisory committee claims that phenylephrine is not an effective decongestant.

Since phenylephrine does not actually relieve a stuffy nose, it’s possible that the FDA could pull products from the market that include this ingredient; however, the FDA is not required to take the advice of the advisory committee. 

If the FDA decides to ban phenylephrine, manufacturers who make products that contain this ingredient would be required to reformulate the medications in order to keep them on store shelves. 

Researchers at The University of Florida petitioned the FDA to remove products that contain phenylephrine from the market. The researchers claimed that according to recent studies, patients who took placebo pills received the same results as patients who took pills containing phenylephrine when it came to relieving congestion due to a cold or allergies. 

This isn’t the first time these same researchers have requested that the FDA remove phenylephrine from the market. These researchers also challenged the FDA in 2007, but that time the FDA decided to leave products containing phenylephrine on the market. The FDA might make a different decision this time around. 

Scott Melville, the CEO of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, hopes that the FDA won’t act too rashly. In a statement, he explained, “We encourage FDA, before making any regulatory determination, to be mindful of the totality of the evidence supporting this long-standing OTC ingredient, as well as the significantly negative unintended consequences associated with any potential change.”

Do you take over the counter medication to relieve a stuffy nose? Do you think the FDA should pull products containing phenylephrine from the market?