The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recently cancelled the registration of 55 pholcodine-containing cough and cold products in Australia. Of these products, 44 are currently on pharmacy shelves across the country, leading to an urgent recall of those products. Suppliers of these medicines are required to initiate a recall no later than 8 March 2023. Many well-known products are affected, including Benadryl, Codral, Duro-Tuss, Terry White and Amcal. Click here for a full list of products covered by the recall -
What exactly is Pholcodine?
Pholcodine is a cough suppressant from the opioid drug class. It has been in use since the 1950s and is contained in a wide range of cough syrups and throat lozenges. It is also used in combination with other active ingredients to treat cough and cold symptoms more broadly.
Why is it being withdrawn?
The reason for the recall is that research has found a link between pholcodine-containing medicines and a risk of anaphylactic reactions to other medicines, specifically neuromuscular blockers (these are the medicines used to relax muscles during general anaesthesia). In fact, the TGA suspects 50 instances of adverse reactions in Australia were related to pholcodine, including one death. Many health professionals support the TGA’s decision to remove pholcodine-containing products from the market.
Implications for workplaces
Workplace drug testing includes testing for opioids. Pholcodine is an opioid and as such can trigger a non-negative (or uncertain) onsite drug result. With its removal from the market, the number of non-negative drug tests due to pholcodine will decline. However, this may take some time. Due to the current widespread use of such medications, it is likely workers may still have a supply at home and may continue to use such products to treat their symptoms.
As the cold and flu seasons draws near:
Let your workers know about this Pholcodine recall and encourage them to check if their cough and cold medicine/s contain this ingredient.
Other cough, cold and flu medications (that do not contain pholcodine) remain available and can similarly produce a non-negative result in an onsite drug test. Ensure your workers are aware of this and be clear within your drug and alcohol policy how such a non-negative result will be handled.
Encourage your workers to consult their health professional as to the most appropriate treatment for their cough, cold and flu symptoms, with consideration also to any potential implications for the work activities they perform.
DASA can assist you with messaging about the safe use of medicines, particularly cough and cold products. Call us today on 1300-230-231 if you would like to know more.
DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol testing services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.