CVS Health pulls ‘ineffective’ cold medicines off shelves

10/21/23 By Madison Lucchesi

CVS Health pulls cold-and-cough oral medications from its shelves with phenylephrine as its active ingredient after doctors and researchers found the decongestant ineffective. CVS says their stores will still sell “many other oral cough and cold products to meet consumer needs.”

Last month, phenylephrine was unanimously voted against by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Drug companies Merck and Johnson & Johnson conducted studies in previous years that found no difference between phenylephrine and decongestant placebos, according to the FDA.

The decongestant is ineffective when taken orally in medications like Dayquil and Sudafed. The FDA said that phenylephrine is more effective in nasal sprays and drops. 

Drug makers switched to phenylephrine as an active ingredient when the previous active ingredient — pseudoephedrine — was required to be kept behind pharmacy counters. This was due to the illegal processing of pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine.

For consumers looking for more effective medications, doctors and researchers recommend nasal sprays or oral medications with different active ingredients.