Colds and flu: Humex, Fervex… why you should be wary of these over-the-counter medicines

the essential
In an article published on Monday, the association UFC-Que Choisir designates a list of over-the-counter medicines intended to fight different types of colds. These drugs have few beneficial effects and significant adverse effects.

It’s an unmanageable winter: while the temperatures seem to be dropping in France, the French now have to deal with colds. Faced with these upper respiratory tract infections – which can cause sore throats, runny noses or even sneezing – the French do not hesitate to turn to over-the-counter medicines in pharmacies.

Fervex, HumexLib, Rhinofebral… These “medicinal cocktails” – which combine paracetamol with active ingredients or vitamins – are now being criticized by many health professionals and consumer associations. This is, among other things, the case for UFC-Que Choisir: “The ban on the advertising of specialties containing pseudo-ephedrine in 2018 led the laboratories to highlight their antibodies containing antihistamines, a class that is usually given in allergies”, exhorts the consumer association in an article published on Monday on 23 January.

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Ineffective, dangerous to health… here’s the list of drugs you’ll need to avoid in 2023

UFC-Que Choisir drives the point home, considering that these substances “have not proven their effectiveness against colds”: “The trials that have evaluated them alone in this indication show a small effect in the first two days on the intensity of the symptoms, but none the following days, and they made no difference with placebo on runny nose, stuffy nose and sneezing”, points out the association.

Significant side effects

Even worse, these substances can pose health risks. Last December, the independent magazine Prescribe published a blacklist of 107 drugs to be banned from medicine cabinets. “These medicines, which contain pseudo-ephedrine, a substance that makes it possible to ‘close the stuffing’ of the nose when it is blocked, can lead to serious heart, digestive or neurological disorders, sometimes fatal”, explains Martin Ducret , doctor and journalist at “Quotidien du Médecin”, with our colleagues from France info. Health professionals state that these side effects are rare.

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Shortage: Doliprane, Dafalgan… the government bans the sale of paracetamol-based medicines on the Internet

If you suffer from a cold, it is therefore preferable to stick to paracetamol and sea water, respecting the dosage indicated in the instructions for these medicines.

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