Cough and cold medicine out for under six year-olds

The New Zealand Government has followed through on a proposal, foreshadowed in August, to ban giving cough and cold medicines to children under the age of six.

cold2The recommendation, from the Cough and Cold Review Group of Medsafe,  mirrors policies adopted by Governments in Britain and Canada.

“After full consideration of the data, the Group has recommended that oral cough and cold medicines should not be used in children under six with the exception of those containing only bromhexine,” Cough and Cold Review Group Chair Andi Shirtcliffe said.

“Our review found that the balance of risks and benefits for the use of these medicines in children under six is unfavourable,” she added.

Bromhexine is a mucolytic agent used in the treatment of respiratory disorders.

The Cough and Cold Review Group considered that the use of oral medicines containing bromhexine only or intra-nasal decongestants (such as oxymetazoline and xylometazoline) should remain restricted to adults and children two years of age and over.

Dr Peter Black, Professor of Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Auckland said of the recommendation:

“This has been foreshadowed for a while. The evidence that they work is minimal. The widespread view in the world of paediatricians is these are not helpful and in some cases deleterious.”

Cough and cold medicines won’t be banned from the market – most of them are targeted for use in adults anyway. However packaging will be changed to reflect the recommendations. Existing supplies of cough and cold medicines will remain on the market to avoid shortages of certain cough and cold medicines.

To speak to an expert on the issue contact the Science Media Centre 04 499 5476,