Cough medicine recalled due to pholcodine causing anaphylactic reactions

Dozens of popular over-the-counter cough syrups and lozenges have been ordered off the Australian shelves due to a potentially life-threatening ingredient.

The Therapeutic Goods Authority has removed 55 products containing pholcodine from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Registry.

Pholcodine is found in 55 products, including Codral, Bisolvon and Benadryl dry cough syrups sold throughout Australia.

The TGA stated that a safety investigation revealed an increased risk of anaphylactic reactions to certain drugs used as a muscle relaxant during general anesthesia.

The TGA is aware of 50 reports in Australia where a person is suspected of having a pholcodine-related anaphylactic reaction to neuromuscular blockers during general anesthesia.

One person died due to a severe allergic reaction.

TGA chief adjunct professor John Skerrit urged anyone who has taken or suspects they have taken pholcodine medication to see a doctor.

“If you need general anesthesia and have taken pholcodine within the last 12 months, I advise you to tell your doctor about it,” he said.

“Healthcare providers should also check whether patients who are given general anesthesia have used pholcodine within the previous 12 months.

“Fortunately, there are safer alternatives to treat dry cough and consumers should seek advice from their doctor or pharmacist.”

He advises consumers to check if their current cold and flu medications contain folcodine and ask a doctor or pharmacist to suggest an alternative treatment.

The TGA’s move is welcomed by Flinders University Clinical Epidemiology Research Director Dr. Ashley Hopkins.

“Folcodine is a cough remedy that has been associated with severe allergic reactions that can be life-threatening. These reactions can occur even in patients who have not had a history of allergies to any other medications,” she said.

“In addition, there are several alternative medicines that can be used to treat coughs without the risk of anaphylaxis.”

Originally published as Urgent recall of cough medicines containing pholcodine

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