Cough drug status reviewed

Associated Press / September 15, 2010

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WASHINGTON — A panel of medical experts said yesterday that cough medicines like Robitussin and Nyquil should continue to be sold over-the-counter, despite increased abuse among teens that has prompted calls to restrict sales of the products.

The Food and Drug Administration panel voted 15 to 9 against a proposal that would require a doctor’s note to buy medicines containing dextromethorphan, an ingredient found in more than 100 over-the-counter medications.

The FDA is not bound to follow the group’s advice, though it often does. Specifically, panelists were asked if the ingredient should be “scheduled,’’ a regulatory move designed to decrease access to drugs with high potential for abuse.

“For me there was no data to show us that scheduling this product would decrease abuse,’’ said panelist Janet Engle, professor and department head of pharmacy practice at the University of Illinois.

Abuse of dextromethorphan, dubbed “robotripping,’’ is popular among teenagers, but it carries risks, including elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. Abusers can also suffer side effects from other ingredients mixed in cough medicines, such as acetaminophen, which can cause liver damage.

The FDA agreed to revisit how it regulates the medicines at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which suggested making them prescription drugs.