The FDA is now requiring safety labeling changes for prescription cough and cold medicines containing codeine or hydrocodone to limit the use of these products to adults 18 years and older because the risks of these medicines outweigh their benefits in children younger than 18. Codeine and hydrocodone are available in combination with other medicines, such as antihistamines and decongestants, in prescription medicines to treat coughs and symptoms associated with allergies or the common cold Per the FDA’s 1/11/18 safety alert, “FDA is requiring the addition of safety information about the risks of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, death, and slowed or difficult breathing to the Boxed Warning, the most prominent warning, of the drug labels for prescription cough and cold medicines containing codeine or hydrocodone….FDA is taking this action after conducting an extensive review and convening a panel of outside experts. Both of these determined the risks of slowed or difficult breathing, misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death with these medicines outweigh their benefits in patients younger than 18.”
See the FDA Drug Safety Communication for a list of prescription cough and cold medicines containing codeine or hydrocodone.
The FDA made the following recommendations for health care professionals, parents and caregivers:
Health care professionals should be aware that FDA is changing the age range for which prescription opioid cough and cold medicines are indicated. These products will no longer be indicated for use in children, and their use in this age group is not recommended. Health care professionals should reassure parents that cough due to a cold or upper respiratory infection is self-limited and generally does not need to be treated. For those children in whom cough treatment is necessary, alternative medicines are available. These include over-the-counter (OTC) products such as dextromethorphan, as well as prescription benzonatate products.
Parents and caregivers should be aware that prescription opioid cough and cold medicines that include codeine or hydrocodone should not be used in children. Codeine and hydrocodone are narcotic medicines called opioids and may carry serious risks when used in children. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand that a cough due to a common cold often does not need medicines for treatment. If a cough medicine is prescribed, ask your child’s health care professional or a pharmacist if it contains an opioid such as codeine or hydrocodone. Always read the labels on prescription bottles. If the medicine prescribed for your child contains an opioid, talk to your child’s health care professional about a different, non-opioid medicine, or if you have any questions or concerns.
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