FDA weighs how to stop abuse of over-the-counter cough and cold drugs

The Food and Drug Administration will consider placing restrictions of the sale of over-the-counter cold remedies containing dextromethorphan, such as Robitussin and Coricidin, according to an agency memo.

An advisory committee will meet on Sept. 14 to review data on the misuse of cough-and-cold remedies among children and adolescents -- an activity known as robo-tripping.

The agency issued its first public warning that the drugs may be misused by teens to get high in 2005. But since then, reports have grown regarding abuse of dextromethorphan-containing products. According to data in the FDA memo posted in advance of the upcoming meeting, emergency room visits due to overdoses of the drug rose from 4,634 in 2004 to 7,988 in 2008. Last year, the national Monitoring the Future Report on youth substance abuse found that non-medical use of cough and cold products among 8th-, 10th- and 12th-grade students was 2.6%, 5.0% and 6.3%, respectively. The drug can cause heightened awareness, hallucinations and euphoria. Deaths have been reported from abuse among adolescents.

Authorities will debate whether products containing the substance should be reclassified as a controlled substance, available only by prescription. However, manufacturers of the products oppose such action and say it would greatly inconvenience consumers. Experts agree that parents need more information on the abuse potential of the drugs and that store owners should take stricter precautions to avoid sales of the products to minors.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

Return to Booster Shots blog.