Desperate Brits have scrambled to grab the few cough medicines remaining after 20 different cold and flu remedies were urgently pulled from shelves today over allergy fears.
The remedies include those made by Day & Night Nurse and Covonia — as well as own-brand versions sold in Boots and Superdrug.
It comes after a review by the UK’s medicines watchdog found that pholcodine, an ingredient in the cough syrups, could, in rare cases, cause an allergic reaction, if the user goes under general anaesthetic, such as for an operation.
Online pharmacies displayed ‘out of stock’ messages, while others including Boots, reported ‘stock coming soon’.
Patients took to social media to complain of issues getting hold of depleted stocks of medication.
A review by the UK’s medicines watchdog found that pholcodine, which is found in cough syrups, could in rare cases cause an allergic reaction if the is put under general anaesthetic. The review concluded that the benefits of pholcodine-containing cough and cold medicines ‘do not outweigh the increased risk of the very rare event of anaphylaxis’
The dozens of ‘out of stock’ webpages reveal the dramatic extent of the shortages that have hit thousands of patients in the UK today.
One woman reacting to the news tweeted: ‘This is outrageous. I’ve had trouble getting Day Nurse and Night Nurse for months so it isn’t new.’
Meanwhile, another wrote: ‘Day and Night Nurse being withdrawn from the U.K. market is actually quite sad, it’s the only medicine that has been touching the sides with this never ending cold I currently have. It’s been so hard to get hold of recently too.’
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which polices the safety of drugs used in Britain, was behind the review announced today.
The review concluded that the benefits of pholcodine-containing cough and cold medicines ‘do not outweigh the increased risk of the very rare event of anaphylaxis’.
It followed advice from the Commission on Human Medicines, which advises the Government on the safety, efficacy and quality of medicinal products, who said there is ‘sufficient overall evidence for an association with pholcodine’.
But, ‘the absolute risk of anaphylaxis remains very small in patients who have taken pholcodine’, the Commission confirmed.
Currently the risk it is thought to affect only around 1 in 10,000 procedures.
Bosses at the European Medicines Agency also recommended the products’ withdrawal from the EU market in December last year following similar concerns.
Meanwhile other Brits took to social media to share the news, claiming they had never experienced any issues with the recalled medication.
‘What they’ve only just discovered they’re dangerous?’, one tweeted.
Another wrote: ‘What, always take night nurse! Never had a problem! Need to stock up!!’, one tweeted.
One said: ‘Utterly ridiculous. Been available for years, works like a charm too. Day and night nurse are great. Hope they’re back on the shelves soon.’
On Facebook, others wrote: ‘Ridiculous! Some of these are the only things that work.’
Pholcodine is mostly found in household cough syrups and the recall includes syrups and lozenges which are on shelves across the country
Another commented: ‘Covonia is the only one that works for me!!’
Meanwhile one said: ‘Pholcodine cough syrup is the only thing that works when I’ve had really bad flu or cold, it’s an old one my nan always used, now I’ve stuck to it as nothing else works.’
Pholcodine-containing products are only available in the UK for purchase in a pharmacy.
Patients taking cough medicine tablets and syrups are advised by the MHRA to check the medication’s packaging, label and patient information leaflet to see if pholcodine is a listed ingredient.
Those taking medicines including the drug should speak to a pharmacist who will suggest a different suitable medication.
Which medications are affected?
The Boots Company PLC
Boots Night Cough Relief Oral Solution PL 00014/0230
Boots Dry Cough Syrup 6 Years+ PL 00014/0523
Boots Day Cold & Flu Relief Oral Solution PL 00014/0565
Thornton & Ross Limited
Cofsed Linctus PL 00240/0097
Care Pholcodine 5mg/5ml Oral Solution Sugar Free PL 00240/0101
Galenphol Paediatric Linctus PL 00240/0102
Galenphol Strong Linctus, PL 00240/0103
Covonia Dry Cough Sugar Free Formula PL 00240/0353
Bell Sons & Company (Druggists) Limited
Pholcodine Linctus Bells Healthcare 5mg Per 5ml Oral Solution PL 03105/0059
Numark Pholcodine 5mg per 5ml Oral Solution PL 03105/0059
Well Pharmaceuticals Pholcodine 5mg per 5ml Oral Solution, PL 03105/0059
Superdrug Pholcodine Linctus BP PL 03105/0059
Strong Pholcodine Linctus BP PL 03105/0060
Pinewood Laboratories Limited
Pholcodine Linctus BP PL 04917/0002
Strong Pholcodine Linctus BP, PL 04917/0005
Pholcodine Linctus PL 12965/0030
Glaxosmithkline Consumer Healthcare (UK) Trading Limited
Day & Night Nurse Capsules PL 44673/0068
Day Nurse Capsules PL 44673/0069
Day Nurse PL 44673/0075