Do you know cough syrup has alcohol?

  • Jan 11 , 2017

In March 2016 US pharma giant Pfizer Inc’s Indian unit stopped selling its Corex syrup, which was then widely popular. It was banned because of regulators alleging that it pose a risk to humans.

Constituents of Corex

Corex is prepared from a combination of codeine syrup and chloropheniramine maleate, which is one of the 344 drug combinations banned in India today. Approval of these syrups has taken place through regulators of states and not the Central Government, the latter being a legal requirement.

Another US drug manufacturer Abbot Laboratories Ltd, which makes codeine-based cough syrup Phensedyl, has also been impacted by the ban.

You will be surprised to know that codeine is actually a derivative of opium. It is legally banned across the world in several countries for children below the age of 12 but is commonly sold here in different forms.

Why was it banned?

The US, UK, EU, Canada, New Zealand and Australia banned codeine-based medicines for children below 12 in 2013 as there had been major side-effects in children, such as seizures, fainting and even death. Unfortunately, such syrups do not even showcase a warning about their potential side effects on breastfeeding women and children.

Is alcohol present in cough syrup?

Syrups such as Benadryl may have made you feel tipsy in the past. The percentage is usually from 1.4 to 5 per cent. However, some syrups have much more, from 10-40 per cent.The reason alcohol is included in the syrup is to allow ingredients to dissolve easily, as they are otherwise unable to do so. Dextromethorphan (cough suppressant) is an example of such an ingredient, which is unable to dissolve at all in water. However, some cough syrups have actually managed to replace alcohol with other solvents like propylene glycol, thereby stating that they are ‘alcohol-free’.

Photo Courtesy: Business Insider
Some do’s and don’ts of cough syrup

When we suffer from cough, or when our children suffer from it, we try and do anything to prevent it. However, certain precautions do need to be kept in mind:

  • Do not give it to children below 12 years of age
  • Do you suffer from heart diseases or high blood pressure? If yes, check with the doctor before using the medicine
  • Do not overuse the syrup. Do not consume it more than the regular dosage
  • Do not consume it before driving, since it brings about lethargy and slow reflexes
  • Check the ingredients of the syrup prior to consumption. Ensure that you do not have an allergy to any
  • Always buy over-the-counter cough syrups and not under-the-counter
  • Understand why the cough is taking place. If it is the narrowing of bronchial tubes due to asthma, cough syrup will never help
  • Certain cough syrups have anti histamines, which do bring down the allergic symptoms of colds but also can make you sleepy, cause hallucinations and give palpitations

How much cough syrup is needed by an adult?

The amount needed varies as per the constituents, but for the syrup containing Dextromethorphan, it is advised to consume 15 mg once a day. Check the exact dosage with your doctor to be sure.