Sudafed might be pulled from shelves or even made prescription-only because of links to rare but deadly brain disorders.
Medical regulators are ‘reviewing available evidence’ to see if the rules on selling pseudoephedrine need to change, it emerged today.
Health chiefs are spooked by reports of patients being struck down with two rare conditions. Both can cause strokes.
Other decongestants, such as products made by Benylin, Nurofen and Day & Night Nurse, would also be affected if any change was necessary.
Dozens of own-brand remedies — including ones at Boots, Lloyds and Superdrug — also contain the chemical.
Pictured, two of the drugs sold at pharmacies that contain the chemical. Medical regulators are ‘reviewing available evidence’ to see if the rules on selling pseudoephedrine need to change, it emerged today
Health chiefs are spooked by reports of patients being struck down with two rare conditions. Both can cause strokes. Other decongestants, such as products made by Benylin, Nurofen and Day & Night Nurse, would also be affected if any change was necessary
It works by narrowing swollen blood vessels in the sinuses — which causes the nose to become blocked in the first place.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which polices the safety of drugs used in Britain, is behind the review.
A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We will provide any further advice as appropriate. If people have concerns, they should speak to their pharmacist or doctor.’
The Pharmaceutical Journal, which first reported the news, claimed it was to decide ‘whether marketing authorisations for pseudoephedrine-containing medicines need to change’.
Bosses at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) launched their own review into the safety of the medicine less than a fortnight ago.
What are the brain disorders PRES and RCVS? Everything you need to know
Both posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS) are rare but potentially deadly brain disorders.
Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES)
Symptoms can include:
- Vision problems
- Mental changes
- Swelling of the brain
Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome:
Symptoms can include:
- Severe headaches
- Swelling of the brain
It followed ‘concerns about the risk of posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS)’.
EMA chiefs will ‘decide whether the marketing authorisations for pseudoephedrine-containing medicines should be maintained, varied, suspended or withdrawn across the EU’.
Officials didn’t specify how many cases of PRES or RCVS linked to pseudoephedrine had been spotted to warrant the probe.
EU bosses merely pointed to a ‘small number’ that have been logged in surveillance databases and medical literature.
The MHRA said that cases have been ‘very rarely reported with these medicines’.
However, it is also possible that nothing will change following review.
PRES and RCVS can involve reduced blood supply (ischaemia) to the brain and may cause major and life-threatening complications in some cases.
Signs of PRES often include headaches, vision problems, mental changes, seizures, and swelling in the brain, according to the NHS.
A severe ‘thunderclap’ headache is the hallmark sign of RCVS and it may be the only symptom.
Pseudoephedrine is already known to pose a slight risk to the heart including strokes and heart attacks.
And there are warnings are already included in product information leaflets inside products containing the medicine.
However, health chiefs are spooked because of new cases logged and the seriousness of PRES and RCVS.
Sales restrictions are already placed on pseudoephedrine, despite it being widely available for decades.
It has been illegal to sell or supply any product which contains more than 720mg of pseudoephedrine without a prescription since 2008.
Dozens of own-brand remedies — including ones at Boots, Lloyds and Superdrug — also contain the chemical
It followed a ruling from the Commission on Human Medicines, which claimed it implemented the restriction ‘to manage the risk of misuse of pseudoephedrine’.
In the US, the US Food and Drug Administration also sets limits on how much pseudoephedrine consumers can purchase in a month-long period.
Pseudoephedrine is known to also work as an ‘essential’ ingredient in making crystal meth.
A spokesperson for the MHRA also told MailOnline today: ‘We keep the safety of all medicines under close review to ensure that the benefits outweigh any risks — the safety of the public is our top priority.’
They added: ‘We would also like to remind patients and parents/carers to report any suspected side effects to our Yellow Card scheme.’
All Brits are urged to report any medicines side effects they notice to the Yellow Card Scheme.