Finds Cough Drugs
No Better Than Sugar Syrup
Two ingredients commonly used in cough
syrup are no better than sugar water in suppressing night-time
coughing in children, according to a study published.
The two ingredients are dextromethorphan
-- often listed on labels as "DM" -- and diphenhydramine, an antihistamine.
The former is the most common nonprescription cough suppressant
on the U.S. market, and commonly abused by adolescents who try
to get high on cough medicine.
"Consumers spend billions of dollars
each year on over-the-counter medications for cough," said Ian
Paul, a physician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn
State Children's Hospital.
"Our study showed that the two
ingredients used in most over-the-counter medications were no
better than a placebo ... in providing night time relief for children
with cough and sleep difficulty as a result of upper respiratory
infection," he added.
Paul was the chief author of the
study appearing in the July issue of Pediatrics, the journal of
the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The findings were based on 100
children aged 2 to 18 with upper respiratory infections. Their
parents were quizzed about the severity of the children's cough
and how well both parents and children slept the previous night.
In the evening of the day the parents
were questioned the children were given either one of the commercial
preparations or an inert placebo -- in this case simple syrup.
"There was a significant improvement
for all symptoms over the previous night, which should reassure
clinicians and parents that, regardless of treatment, the natural
history of an upper respiratory infection favors resolution of
symptoms with time," Paul said.
In an interview, Paul said the
improvement in symptoms across-the-board was due to both the natural
progression of an infection easing one day to the next and the
well-documented "placebo effect," where symptoms diminish because
a patient believes a treatment is helping.
He said the sleep of both parents
and children improved but the improvement was the same in the
group given sugar syrup as for the children given the drugs.
Asked what parents should do, Paul
said "my advice has been to do things that are harmless but could
help -- saline nose drops, good hydration and humidified air."
Reference Source 89
July 6, 2004