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Cough Medicine Doesn't Work, May Harm Kids

The aforementioned headline hails from Fox News and is also just one of the numerous stories appearing inside the press according to new guidelines published by the American College of Chest Physicians in the January 2006 issue of their journal Chest. The policies were also endorsed by the American Thoracic Society and the Canadian Thoracic Society. In a January 9, 2006 USA Today story about the guidelines, it had been reported that nearly 30 million Americans visit doctors for coughs yearly.

Richard D. Irwin, MD, guidelines committee chair and professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, stated, "There isn't any clinical evidence that over-the-counter cough expectorants or suppressants actually relieve cough." Dr. Irwin also noted, "Over the Counter cough medicines have shown to have a very strong placebo effect, and coughs as a result of colds eventually disappear independently." The recommendations concerning children were even stronger. "Cough and cold medicines aren't beneficial in children and may sometimes be harmful." stated Irwin. He continued, "In many instances, a cough that's unrelated to chronic lung conditions, environmental influences, or other specific factors, will resolve on its own." The Fox News article reported that there have been very few studies done on over-the-counter cough medicines. They also pointed out that most of the studies were conducted decades ago and involved narcotic products containing codeine. William Brendle Glomb, MD, a pediatric lung specialist who helped write the guidelines said, "There are big holes in the scientific literature, and this is one of them. These products just haven't been studied."

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