SEP 11, 2023 7:28 AM PDT

Disrupting the Market as Flu Season Approaches - New Review Suggests Questionable Efficacy of OTC Decongestant

WRITTEN BY: Greta Anne

If you've ever reached for an over-the-counter nasal decongestant to relieve the stuffiness that comes with allergies or a cold, you might have come across a medication called oral phenylephrine (PE). It's often found in various cold and allergy remedies, promising relief from that bothersome congestion. New information reveals that the FDA has been discussing the effectiveness and safety of PE, as suggested in their new briefing document released Efficacy of Oral Phenylephrine as a Nasal Decongestant.

The FDA periodically reviews medications to ensure they are both safe and effective. In this case, the briefing document explores whether oral PE lives up to its claims. The review takes into account clinical trials, studies conducted in controlled environments, and data from the past.

One of the most significant revelations from the briefing document comes from Environmental Exposure Unit (EEU) studies. In 2007, these studies, which mimic real-life conditions for allergy sufferers, found that oral PE failed to provide any noticeable relief compared to a placebo. This discovery challenged the accepted notion that oral PE was an effective nasal decongestant.

The FDA’s clinical team reviewed all the "new" clinical data that has emerged since the FDA initially deemed oral PE generally recognized as safe and effective in 1994. There were several trials they discussed in their briefing that had come up since 2007, and all these cases made the same argument: that oral PE is not as effective as claims suggest.

To settle the debate once and for all, Merck conducted new, smartly designed & executed, fool-proof, clinical trials on oral PE. These trials aimed to provide more clarity on the drug's efficacy and safety. The results once again showed that none of the doses demonstrated significant superiority over a placebo in relieving nasal congestion. 

The FDA briefing document leaves us with several important takeaways. The efficacy of oral PE as a nasal decongestant remains highly questionable. The EEU studies and more recent trials consistently indicate that oral PE doesn't deliver the relief it promises. Patients may be better off exploring alternative options like pseudoephedrine. 

The document underscores the importance of ongoing evaluation of medications. Just because a drug was considered effective in the past doesn't mean it holds up to scrutiny in today's scientific landscape. Periodic reviews, like the one conducted by the FDA, are crucial for ensuring that consumers receive safe and effective treatments.

In the end, the debate surrounding oral PE serves as a reminder that science and medicine are constantly evolving fields, and that is the beauty of uncovering more and more information about the human body and the world around us. 


Sources: FDA.govAnnals of Pharmacotherapy

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Greta is currently a writer at Labroots and a 3rd year Doctor of Pharmacy student, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. Innovation is her passion, especially when it comes to pharma, entrepreneurship, science, and art. She is hoping to pursue a career in pharma while also fostering her creative initiatives.
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