WASHINGTON -- A number of major drug store chains are pulling dozens of over-the-counter cold remedies and diet pills from their shelves after the government warned that an ingredient could cause hemorrhagic strokes, especially in young women.
The Food and Drug Administration issued an unusually strong warning Monday, telling Americans to immediately quit using drugs containing phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, which is found Dexatrim, Tavist-D and dozens of other over-the-counter medicines. The agency, which intends to ban the ingredient, asked manufacturers voluntarily to stop selling PPA-containing drugs immediately and to replace the ingredient with a safer alternative.
Rite Aid, with 3,800 drug stores in 30 states and the District of Columbia, soon will begin posting warning signs and removing products with PPA, spokeswoman Jody Cook said.
CVS Pharmacy, which has 4,100 stores, and Walgreen Co., with 3,200 stores, made similar announcements.
Dr. Charles Ganley, the FDA's nonprescription drugs chief, said buyers should be alert for PPA in the ingredient list of nonprescription cold relievers and instead choose decongestant pills with the safe alternative pseudoephedrine or use nasal sprays.
Over-the-counter alternatives do not exist for diet pills, however, so dieters will have to consult doctors about prescription-only alternatives, Ganley said.
Whitehall-Robins Healthcare quit shipping PPA-containing Dimetapp on Monday. New liquid Dimetapp formulas lacking PPA will head for store shelves next week, with pill versions to follow. Also, some stores are selling PPA-containing versions of its Robitussin-CF product, and some are selling a new non-PPA formula, in boxes flagged with a yellow band.
SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare said people should not use its PPA-containing Contac 12-hour Cold Capsules, but five other Contac versions contain the safe pseudoephedrine.
Even though manufacturers learned three weeks ago that the FDA was preparing to act, when the agency's scientific advisers declared PPA unsafe, many scrambled Monday to decide what to do.
Manufacturers that refused to reveal their plans include Novartis Corp., maker of PPA-containing Triaminic and Tavist-D; Bayer Corp., maker of Alka-Seltzer Plus cold medicines; and Chattem Inc., maker of Dexatrim diet pills.
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