FIT WebQoof: Do Certain OTC Cold Medicines Cause Strokes?

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CLAIM

A viral message on dangerous medicines, signed off by a doctor from the US, has been doing the rounds lately. The fervently shared message claims these medicines, including common ones like Vicks Action-500 and D-Cold, can cause strokes.

Whatsapp forward with the viral claim

The message is part of a longer message and the first three parts of that talk about Appy Fizz, Mentos and Kurkure have already been debunked by FIT here.

Whatsapp forward with the viral claim

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TRUE OR FALSE?

Now we deep dive into point 4, and see whether the medicines mentioned on the list are actually unsafe.

The doctors we spoke to said that while the exact dangers of the medicines were yet to be dissected, it is advisable to avoid taking them.

Dr Ashwini Setya, senior gastroenterologist at Max Hospital, told FIT,

"“There is definitely an increased risk of stroke with some of these medications. Hence they were banned in the US about 20 years ago but are available in Europe. In India there was only a temporary ban for a few months. But most of the qualified doctors are refraining from prescribing these because of the increased side effects.”" - Dr Ashwini Setya

The Ministry of Health had banned over 328 fixed drug combinations in 2018, but Vicks Action -500 was exempt from that list. Dr Setya had explained the complications with FDCs in an article for FIT here.

Cementing the idea that these medicines should be avoided, Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant- Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, added “There is some truth in this claim.”

"“Quite a few of these medicines were banned in India too but they are back in the market. However there are specific compounds and combinations in them that make these unsafe.”" - Dr Suranjit Chatterjee

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Medicine Bans Don’t Always Spell Danger: Dr Setya

Dr Setya told us that while these medicines are best avoided, they are not all necessarily dangerous.

He clarified saying, “It’s true that Phenyl Propanol-Amine (not Amide as mentioned in the claim) or PPA was discontinued in the US. After phase 4 trials, often many medicines are withdrawn for various reasons and side-effects. But this cannot be extrapolated to say that the medicine is safe or unsafe.”

He adds, “If the medicine was extremely unsafe, it would not be introduced in the first place. The problem doesn't lie in the fact that the medicine was banned or not banned. The problem is the sensationalism and the fear created.”

Should We Stop Taking OTC Cold Medicines?

When asked about common OTC medicines, Dr Chatterjee said, “Any of the medicines on the list should not be used. They have various combinations of drugs and chemicals in them that cause minor to major side-effects.”

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