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Lung. 2008;186 Suppl 1:S82-7. Epub 2007 Oct 2.

Currently available cough suppressants for chronic cough.

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National Heart & Lung Institute, Imperial College London, and Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust, London, UK.


Chronic cough is a common symptom but only a fraction of patients seek medical attention. Addressing the causes of chronic cough may lead to control of cough; however, this approach is not always successful since there is a certain degree of failure even when the cause(s) of cough are adequately treated; in idiopathic cough, there is no cause to treat. Persistent cough may be associated with deterioration of quality of life, and treatment with cough suppressants is indicated. Currently available cough suppressants include the centrally acting opioids such as morphine, codeine, and dextromethorphan. Peripherally acting antitussives include moguisteine and levodropropizine. Early studies report success in reducing cough in patients with chronic bronchitis or COPD; however, a carefully conducted study showed no effect of codeine on cough of COPD. Success with these cough suppressants can be achieved at high doses that are associated with side effects. Slow-release morphine has been reported to be useful in controlling intractable cough with good tolerance to constipation and drowsiness. There have been case reports of the success of centrally acting drugs such as amitryptiline, paroxetine, gabapentin, and carbamezepine in chronic cough. New opioids such as nociceptin or antagonists of TRPV1 may turn out to be more effective. Efficacy of cough suppressants must be tested in double-blind randomised trials using validated measures of cough in patients with chronic cough not responding to specific treatments. Patients with chronic cough are in desperate need of effective antitussives that can be used either on demand or on a long-term basis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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