Cold: these medications, now strongly discouraged, can cause heart attacks and strokes

Cold: these medications, now strongly discouraged, can cause heart attacks and strokes

This Monday, October 23, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products warns: certain vasoconstrictor medications used to unclog the nose during a cold are suspected of causing heart and stroke accidents. Only one recommended measure: no longer buy them!

Tempted to go buy an over-the-counter medicine to unblock that nose congested by a cold? According to the drug agency, you are at much greater risk from a vasoconstrictor than from a blocked nose. The National Medicines Safety Agency (ANSM) is warning this Monday of heart and stroke accidents.

A risk for your health from the first use

Vasoconstrictors are over-the-counter medications in pharmacies, without a prescription. Their action aims to unclog the nose by reducing the size of blood vessels. In the event of a cold, they effectively deflate the mucous membrane of the nose, it must be admitted. But they are now suspected of increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

“Recent data from pharmacovigilance databases and medical literature report cases of posterior reversible encephalopathy syndromes (PRES) and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndromes (RCVS) after taking an oral vasoconstrictor containing pseudoephedrine indicates the alert.

“These are rare cases, only a handful are recorded each year in Europe.” she continues.

Rare, certainly, but worrying enough to call into question their use. The agency therefore calls for no longer using these products.

What medications are affected?

All vasoconstrictor medications based on a molecule called pseudoephedrine and taken orally are affected.

  • Actifed Rume;
  • Actifed Cold day and night;
  • Dolirhume Paracetamol and Pseudoephedrine;
  • Dolirhumepro Paracetamol Pseudoephedrine and Doxylamine;
  • Humex Rhume ;
  • Nurofen colds;
  • Rhinadvil Cold Ibuprofen/ Pseudoephedrine.

In addition, the alert specifies that the risk of adverse effects is increased in the event of simultaneous use of an oral vasoconstrictor (tablet) and a vasoconstrictor for local use (nasal spray) available only by prescription.

Why are they still on the shelves? In fact, the ANSM cannot ban these drugs, nor suspend their marketing. It is up to Europe to do it, and the European Union is currently looking into the subject.

How does pseudoephedrine work?

Pseudoephedrine works by stimulating nerve endings to release the chemical norepinephrine, which causes blood vessels to constrict (narrow). This reduces the amount of fluid released from the vessels, leading to less swelling and less mucus production in the nose.

Medicines containing pseudoephedrine are authorized in various EU member states alone or in combination with medicines to treat cold and flu symptoms such as headache, fever and aches, or allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the respiratory tract). nasal) in people suffering from nasal congestion.

How to treat your cold without these vasoconstrictors?

The ANSM points out, however, that colds heal spontaneously in 7 to 10 days, even without these aids to decongest the nose.

Simple actions help relieve the discomfort associated with cold symptoms:

  • Moisten the inside of the nose with suitable washing solutions: physiological serum, thermal water or sea water sprays, etc.
  • Drink enough;
  • Sleep with your head elevated;
  • Maintain a cool atmosphere (18-20°C) and ventilate the rooms regularly.