The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing options to restrict access to cough medicine because abuse rates are rising, the Associated Press reported Sept. 1.
Abuse of cough suppressants sent nearly 8,000 people to the emergency room in 2008, an increase of over 70 percent from 2004. Consuming cough medicine in large amounts -- at roughly 25 times the recommended dose -- can result in euphoria.
Although the active ingredient in these medicines, dextromethorphan, is considered safe and effective, high doses of it cause fever and increase blood pressure and heart rate. Dextromethorphan is found in over 100 over-the-counter medicines, including Robitussin, Nyquil, and other popular brands. It is often paired with other drugs that can cause additional health impacts.
Regulators at the FDA initiated their review of dextromethorphan (PDF) at the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because of concerns over its abuse by teens.
On Sept. 14, the FDA will ask a panel of outside experts to make recommendations on what steps to take.
The panel will consider a number of options to restrict the sale of cough medicines, including moving them behind the counter, outlawing sales to persons under 18, or requiring a prescription.
According to the Associated Press, it's unlikely that the FDA will require prescriptions, because of the workload it would place on doctors and pharmacies.
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