ROCKVILLE, Md. — Since a Food and Drug Administration expert advisory panel earlier this month voted 13-9 that children ages 2 to 6 should not use cough and cold medicines such as antitussives, decongestants and antihistamines, consumers will be seeking out retail pharmacists for alternative treatments this cold season, industry sources told SN.
Although the FDA has not acted on the 13-9 vote, manufacturers did agree to pull all cough and cold medicines for children under 2 off the shelves this month after the panel voted 21-1 that such products posed a high risk of misuse.
“When recalls or withdraws of medication occur, our pharmacists typically will receive an increase in patient questions,” said Maria Brous, spokeswoman, Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla. “Our pharmacists are trained to give the most up-to-date information for patients to make the most informed decisions for their families.”
The panel, prompted by a petition to review the safety of the medicines, found that the drugs have never been proven effective in children and in rare cases have caused serious harm.
“There is no doubt that the publicity and the panel's vote has already cramped sales, so I suspect people have stopped buying the medicines and families are in the position to ask pharmacists what to do if their child is sick,” said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill.
It is up to the retail pharmacist then to stay informed on which medications children can take and which non-affected products may provide symptomatic relief, he said.
“This issue is really opening up the dialogue between parents and pharmacists,” said Cathy Polley, vice president, pharmacy services, Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va. “The pharmacist may be able to recommend an alternative first line of defense for young children, such as a humidifier or saline nose drops.”
Polley said she has already seen supermarkets advertising the availability of the pharmacist as a health care professional; however, it is too early to tell if or how significantly sales will be affected.
Brous, who did not comment on sales figures, did point out that wellness remains a focus for Publix. “At Publix and our Publix Pharmacies, the total health and wellness of our customers and their families is at the forefront of our services. This is apparent in the programs and services we offer via the Publix Pharmacy and throughout our entire store with product selection.”
Publix will also continue to promote its in-store flu vaccinations as cold season begins.