FDA advisory committee to discuss curbing DXM abuse

BETHESDA, Md. The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced through the Federal Register that a Sept. 14 meeting will be held with its drug safety and risk management advisory committee to ascertain the abuse potential of the cough-cold ingredient dextromethorphan as part of the over-the-counter cough suppressant’s benefit/risk ratio.

The Department of Health and Human Services received a request from the Drug Enforcement Administration for a scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation for dextromethorphan in response to the increased incidence of abuse, especially among adolescents, the FDA reported.

It is not a fresh issue — the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has been raising awareness among parents around the potential of OTC and prescription-drug abuse among teens for several years. In addition, most if not all pharmacy retailers voluntarily require an age verification that a purchaser of DXM products be at least 18 years old at the point of sale.

According to survey data released in March by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and MetLife Foundation, there was no significant increase in the abuse of over-the-counter cough medicines containing dextromethorphan. The 21st annual Partnership/MetLife Foundation Attitude Tracking Survey found that while lifetime abuse rates among teens for OTC cough medicines have remained relatively flat over the past few years, 12% of teens still report having abused an OTC cough medicine to get high at least once in their lives.

CHPA has been engaged in a long-term, comprehensive initiative to end this type of abuse with partners including the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, and D.A.R.E. America, and more recently, the National Association of School Nurses. 

“While these medicines [containing dextromethorphan] are safe and effective when used as directed, they can be dangerous when abused in extreme amounts, especially when combined with alcohol, illicit drugs or certain prescription drugs,” stated Linda Suydam, CHPA president. “The makers of OTC medicines have been aggressive in their efforts to prevent cough medicine abuse among teens.”

NASN and CHPA last month announced the launch of “Home to Homeroom,” an educational program that teams parents with the medical expert in their teen’s school — the school nurse — to help prevent and address teen medicine abuse.

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