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MHRA recalls all pholcodine-containing medicines from UK

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The Medicine and Healthcare Product Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has recalled all pholcodine-containing medicines from the UK pharmacy due to concerns of its potential to cause a severe allergic reaction in some people having general anaesthesia for surgery.

The decision was made following the conclusion of a review of post-marketing safety data by the MHRA. The Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) has considered the evidence of an increased risk of the very rare event of anaphylaxis when exposed to neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBA) and advised that pholcodine-containing medicines should be withdrawn.

MHRA has advised pharmacists to consider recommending appropriate treatment alternatives for patients who present with a new dry cough or who are currently taking pholcodine.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) President Professor Claire Anderson said: “If you are taking a cough medicine (including tablets and syrups), check the packaging, label or Patient Information Leaflet to see if pholcodine is a listed ingredient – if it is, and you have any questions, you can talk to your pharmacist who can suggest a different medicine suitable for you.

“The risk to patients who have used pholcodine is very small. If you are due to have surgery, please speak to your pharmacist or medical team for advice.

“A cough usually clears up within 3-4 weeks. You can treat it with other cough medicines or hot lemon and honey (not suitable for babies under 1 year old). Rest up if possible and you can try paracetamol or ibuprofen, if suitable, to treat any pain. If your cough persists for longer than 3-4 weeks seek advice from a healthcare professional.

“This withdrawal is needed as safety of patients is paramount and we support efforts to ensure that all medicines on the market are safe and effective.”

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Current Issue June 2024

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