An FDA advisory panel recently reviewed and recommended that the FDA not make over-the-counter cough syrups containing dextromethorphan prescription medications. As we have reminded our readers in prior issues, the FDA is free to accept or reject the panel’s recommendation.
Dextromethorphan (“Dex”) is the active ingredient in about 125 over-the-counter cough and cold medicines like Nyquil, Robitussin and Tylenol Cold. In a recent survey, 8% of teens reported abusing these cough suppressants. The DEA reports that this epidemic has led to a 70% increase in emergency room visits between 2004 and 2008. More than 8,000 people were treated in emergency rooms as a result of abusing Dex.
All too many teenagers take excessive doses of Dex, or more often, mix it with other prescription medication or marijuana in order to get high. This is a practice called “robotripping.” In addition to bringing on euphoric highs, the practice can cause a spike in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, and in some cases death. As we learned in the Meridia litigation, Dextromethorphan is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and when combined with any serotonergic medication (or when taken in excess), it may lead to Serotonin Syndrome which is a potentially life-threatening condition.
It’s imperative that parents accept the fact that just because these medications are sold over the counter, that does not mean they are benign. We should take the same care with these medications as we do with controlled substances and alcohol. If you need additional information on this subject contact Russ Abney, a lawyer in our Mass Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Russ.Abney@beasleyallen.com.
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