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Am J Med. 2010 Nov;123(11):1016-30. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2010.06.014.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor associated cough: deceptive information from the Physicians' Desk Reference.

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Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



Dry cough is a common, annoying adverse effect of all angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. The present study was designed to compare the rate of coughs reported in the literature with reported rates in the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR)/drug label.


We searched MEDLINE/EMBASE/CENTRAL for articles published from 1990 to the present about randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of ACE inhibitors with a sample size of at least 100 patients in the ACE inhibitors arm with follow-up for at least 3 months and reporting the incidence or withdrawal rates due to cough. Baseline characteristics, cohort enrolled, metrics used to assess cough, incidence, and withdrawal rates due to cough were abstracted.


One hundred twenty-five studies that satisfied our inclusion criteria enrolled 198,130 patients. The pooled weighted incidence of cough for enalapril was 11.48% (95% confidence interval [CI], 9.54% to 13.41%), which was ninefold greater compared to the reported rate in the PDR/drug label (1.3%). The pooled weighted withdrawal rate due to cough for enalapril was 2.57% (95% CI, 2.40-2.74), which was 31-fold greater compared to the reported rate in the PDR/drug label (0.1%). The incidence of cough has increased progressively over the last 2 decades with accumulating data, but it has been reported consistently several-fold less in the PDR compared to the RCTs. The results were similar for most other ACE inhibitors.


The incidence of ACE inhibitor-associated cough and the withdrawal rate (the more objective metric) due to cough is significantly greater in the literature than reported in the PDR/drug label and is likely to be even greater in the real world when compared with the data from RCTs. There exists a gap between the data available from the literature and that which is presented to the consumers (prescribing physicians and patients).

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