ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Winter Is Tough on Feet
CANCER
Vitamin D May Lower Colon Cancer Risk
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
CAREGIVING
3 Steps Might Help Stop MRSA's Spread
Hospital Practices Influence Which Moms Will Breast-Feed
Most Women Struggle With Rising Health Care Costs
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
COSMETIC
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Health Tip: After Liposuction
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
DIABETES
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
DIET, NUTRITION
The Best Diet? That Depends on You
Leafy Greens Top Risky Food List
Eating More Soy May Be Good For Your Lung Function
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Chemical in Plastics May Cause Fertility Problems
Cats Can Trigger Eczema in Some Infants
FDA Faulted for Stance on Chemical in Plastics
EYE CARE, VISION
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
Eye Problems, Hearing Loss May Be Linked
It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients
FITNESS
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
Maximize Your Run
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a 'Stress-Buffer'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Lower Vitamin D Levels in Blacks May Up Heart Risks
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Eating Nuts May Help Cholesterol Levels
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Babies Cared For In Others Homes Might Become Heavy Toddlers
Frequent Feedings May Be Making Babies Fat
MEN'S HEALTH
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
MENTAL HEALTH
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
SENIORS
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
As You Age, Better Health Means Better Sex
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Soy May Not Lead to Denser Breasts
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FDA Bans Unapproved Prescription Cough, Cold and Allergy Meds

WEDNESDAY, March 2 -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that it plans to remove about 500 unapproved prescription cough, cold, and allergy medicines from pharmacy shelves.

These drugs have not been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness, and they may be riskier to take than approved over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that treat these same conditions, agency officials explained.

"This action is necessary to protect consumers from the potential risks posed by unapproved drugs, because we don't know what's in them, whether they work properly or how they are made," Deborah M. Autor, director of the agency's Office of Compliance at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said during a morning news conference.

Of particular concern are drugs that have time-release formulations, Autor said. "We know from experience that these type of products are complicated to manufacture," she explained, and the agency's concern is that these products may not release medication consistently or safely.

Another big concern involves unapproved cough, cold and allergy medications labeled for use by children under the age of 2. In 2008, the FDA released a warning against the use of OTC cough and cold products for infants and children under age 2 because of serious, potentially life-threatening side effects.

Officials are also worried about serious side effects with some of these unapproved drugs such as sedation and drowsiness, and name confusion that can lead to prescribing errors, she said.

Despite the requirement that prescription drugs be evaluated by the FDA before they can be sold, many of these medications were never approved, Autor explained.

"Some of these products have been marketed for many years, and have remained on the market illegally," she said. "Some entered the market illegally simply because they [manufacturers] saw a business opportunity."

According to the FDA, many doctors prescribe these drugs because they aren't aware they have not been approved. Most of these drugs are listed in the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR), which is a guide doctors can use when prescribing drugs, Autor noted.

FDA officials expect companies that have listed products with the agency to stop making them within 90 days, and to stop shipping them within 180 days. The agency pointed out that this action will not affect patients since there are many approved prescription and OTC cough, cold, and allergy medications already on the market.

One group representing cold and allergy experts sought to clarify the move for consumers.

"In light of the FDA announcement, it is important to make a distinction between these unapproved drugs and the individual components within the drugs," Dr. Thomas B. Casale, executive vice president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, said in a statement released Wednesday.

"Many of the components can be obtained over-the-counter or by prescription and are approved by the FDA," Casale said. "However, the listed drugs for removal have not proven safe and effective by adequately approved FDA studies. Furthermore, some combination of the components contained in these drugs could result in adverse effects."

And one doctor warned of the dangers of drug combinations.

"I am amazed at the number of prescription products on this list, and 95 percent of them Ive never seen before," said Dr. E. Neil Schachter, a professor of medicine at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "My approach to treating colds and flu is to give specific ingredients for symptom relief separately and not in a combination form. Too often people will buy multiple cold products and don't realize they are taking the same ingredients more than once and are risking an overdose."

There's a long list of the drugs in question at the FDA's Web site. A few of the unapproved medicines to be withdrawn include: A Tan 12X Suspension; Accuhist DM, Accuhist drops cherry flavor, Lodrane 12 D tablets and Aerohist caplets extended release.

More information

For a complete list of unapproved cough cold and allergy drugs, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

SOURCES: March 2, 2011, teleconference with Deborah M. Autor, director, Office of Compliance, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; March 2, 2011, news release, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; E. Neil Schachter, MD, Professor of Medicine at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City