Published: March 2011


Cough and cold medicines - an update

Prescriber Update 32(1): 5
March 2011

Winter is approaching and with it will come the inevitable increase in cough and colds. Healthcare professionals are reminded of the recent actions taken on the use of cough and cold medicines in children.

The majority of cough and cold medicines are contraindicated in children under six years of age. This action was recommended by the Cough and Cold Review Group due to the absence of evidence of any beneficial effect in children, evidence of serious side effects and the risk of accidental overdose.

A list of the affected medicines is available on the Medsafe website at: http://www. AffectedMedicinesOct2009.asp.

Safer use of cough and cold medicines

To help patients use these medicines safely, labels will now:

  • State do not use in children under six years.
  • Advise caregivers to consult with a healthcare professional before using these medicines in older children.
  • Advise caregivers and patients to seek advice before using more than one cough and cold medicine and not to use other medicines containing the same ingredients.

Healthcare professionals are reminded that cough and colds are self-limiting conditions that do not usually require pharmacological intervention. As many products include more than one active ingredient there is the potential for overdose to occur. In addition it is desirable that patients do not take an antitussive in combination with an expectorant or mucolytic. This is considered to be an illogical combination and theoretically may be detrimental.1

Companies have committed to supplying products in the new packs by 1 May 2011. Consumer Medicine Information leaflets for active ingredients are now available on the Medsafe website at:

  1. Two preparations containing antitussive-mucolytic or antitussive-expectorant combinations are approved for use in New Zealand: Robitussin Cough and Chest Congestion and Duro-Tuss Cough Liquid Expectorant.


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