CVS Halts Sale of Decongestants That FDA Panel Said May Not Work

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Oct. 20, 2023 – CVS Health is removing some nasal decongestants from its shelves after influential experts said this year that an ingredient in the products is ineffective.

In September, the FDA’s scientific advisers said the drug phenylephrine doesn’t work when taken orally, such as in pill form. The nasal spray form of phenylephrine is still considered effective.

CVS told media outlets that it will no longer sell oral nasal decongestants that contain phenylephrine as a standalone active ingredient. 

“We are aware of the FDA Advisory Committee’s position on oral phenylephrine (PE) and will follow direction from the FDA to ensure products we sell comply with all laws and regulations,” CVS said in a statement, CNN reported.

A Walgreens spokesperson told The Associated Press that the company is monitoring the situation along with its clinical and supply partners.

The FDA has not taken any action on phenylephrine after the advisory committee’s meeting. 

The American Academy of Family Physicians called the committee’s findings unsurprising, noting that oral phenylephrine’s effectiveness had been questioned for decades. 

“Phenylephrine may be ineffective but it’s not dangerous in OTC doses, and patients with common cold symptoms may still find some relief from the other ingredients in multi-product formulations,” the academy said in a statement.

Over-the-counter decongestant products commonly contained phenylephrine since 2006, when a new law required that the decongestant pseudoephedrine be moved behind pharmacy counters because of its use to illegally make methamphetamine. A prescription is not needed to buy products containing pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.