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BMJ. 2002 Feb 9;324(7333):329-31.

Systematic review of randomised controlled trials of over the counter cough medicines for acute cough in adults.

Author information

  • 1Division of Primary Health Care, University of Bristol, Bristol BS6 6JL. k.schroeder@bristol.ac.uk

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To determine whether over the counter cough medicines are effective for acute cough in adults.

DESIGN:

Systematic review of randomised controlled trials.

DATA SOURCES:

Search of the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group specialised register, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, Medline, Embase, and the UK Department of Health National Research Register in all languages.

INCLUDED STUDIES:

All randomised controlled trials that compared oral over the counter cough preparations with placebo in adults with acute cough due to upper respiratory tract infection in ambulatory settings and that had cough symptoms as an outcome.

RESULTS:

15 trials involving 2166 participants met all the inclusion criteria. Antihistamines seemed to be no better than placebo. There was conflicting evidence on the effectiveness of antitussives, expectorants, antihistamine-decongestant combinations, and other drug combinations compared with placebo.

CONCLUSION:

Over the counter cough medicines for acute cough cannot be recommended because there is no good evidence for their effectiveness. Even when trials had significant results, the effect sizes were small and of doubtful clinical relevance. Because of the small number of trials in each category, the results have to be interpreted cautiously.

Comment in

PMID:
11834560
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC65295
Free PMC Article

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