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Cough, cold and flu medicines are withdrawn from sale

Following a review by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), all medicines containing cough suppressant pholcodine are being withdrawn from sale as a precaution. This is due to its potential to cause a severe allergic reaction when combined with general anaesthetic. These medicines will be no longer available from pharmacies. Please see the list of medicines, and current advice below.



Current advice:

  • If you are taking a cough medicine (including tablets and syrups), check the packaging, label or Patient Information Leaflet to see if pholcodine is a listed ingredient – if it is, and you have any questions, you can talk to your pharmacist who can suggest a different medicine suitable for you.


  • A cough usually clears up within 3-4 weeks. You can treat it with other cough medicines or hot lemon and honey (not suitable for babies under 1 year old). Rest up if possible and you can try paracetamol or ibuprofen, if suitable, to treat any pain. If your cough persists for longer than 3-4 weeks seek advice from a healthcare professional.


  • There is evidence that using pholcodine-containing medicines leads to an increased risk of the very rare event of an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in patients who receive general anaesthesia involving neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBAs) during surgery.


  • Tell your anaesthetist before you have surgery if you have taken pholcodine, particularly in the past 12 months, or think you may have taken a pholcodine-containing product.


  • There is no increased risk of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, with other allergens following pholcodine use and the absolute risk in patients who have used pholcodine is very small, but patients should talk to a pharmacist, their GP or their surgical team if they have any questions.


Medicines being recalled:

  • Boots Night Cough Relief Oral Solution

  • Boots Dry Cough Syrup 6 Years+

  • Boots Day Cold & Flu Relief Oral Solution

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  • Cofsed Linctus

  • Care Pholcodine 5mg/5ml Oral Solution Sugar Free

  • Galenphol Linctus

  • Galenphol Paediatric Linctus

  • Galenphol Strong Linctus

  • Covonia Dry Cough Sugar Free Formula

  • Pholcodine Linctus Bells Healthcare 5mg Per 5ml Oral Solution

  • Numark Pholcodine 5mg per 5ml Oral Solution

  • Well Pharmaceuticals Pholcodine 5mg per 5ml Oral Solution

  • Superdrug Pholcodine Linctus BP

  • Strong Pholcodine Linctus BP

  • Pholcodine Linctus BP

  • Strong Pholcodine Linctus BP

  • Pholcodine Linctus

  • Day & Night Nurse Capsules

  • Day Nurse Capsules

  • Day Nurse

Professor Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said:

The risk to patients who have used pholcodine is very small.
This withdrawal is needed as safety of patients is paramount and we support efforts to ensure that all medicines on the market are safe and effective.

Europe's medicines regulator, the European Medicines Agency, recommended the withdrawal of pholcodine medicines from the European market in December last year.



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