Following advice from the Commission on Human Medicines, the MHRA has requested products containing pholcodine are withdrawn from pharmacies. Commenting on the move, RPS President Professor Claire Anderson said:
“All products containing the cough suppressant pholcodine have been withdrawn due to concerns of its potential to cause a severe allergic reaction in some people having general anaesthesia for surgery.
“If you are taking a cough medicine (including tablets and syrups), check the packaging, label or Patient Information Leaflet to see if pholcodine is a listed ingredient – if it is, and you have any questions, you can talk to your pharmacist who can suggest a different medicine suitable for you.
“The risk to patients who have used pholcodine is very small. If you are due to have surgery, please speak to your pharmacist or medical team for advice.
“A cough usually clears up within 3-4 weeks. You can treat it with other cough medicines or hot lemon and honey (not suitable for babies under 1 year old). Rest up if possible and you can try paracetamol or ibuprofen, if suitable, to treat any pain. If your cough persists for longer than 3-4 weeks seek advice from a healthcare professional.
“This withdrawal is needed as safety of patients is paramount and we support efforts to ensure that all medicines on the market are safe and effective.”
The action taken by the MHRA is in line with action already taken by the European Medicines Agency.
RPS has also issued a Support Alert for pharmacists on pholcodine.
Watch Chair of RPS in England Thorrun Govind explain more about pholcodine on ITV's This Morning: