Why Cough Medicines Containing Pholcodine Can Be Deadly Even If You Took Them Months Before Surgery

Nial Wheate and Tina Hinton

Cough medicines containing the active ingredient pholcodine are being withdrawn from sale due to safety concerns highlighted for years both in Australia and internationally.

Yesterday, Australia’s medicines regulator announced the immediate registration cancellation and recall of dozens of these over-the-counter cough medicines and lozenges.

This is because of the risk of a sudden, severe and life-threatening allergic reaction if people are also given specific muscle relaxant drugs while under a general anaesthetic.

That risk of anaphylaxis can remain weeks and months after taking the cough medicine.

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