According to a recent New York Times article, an FDA advisory panel has unanimously agreed that phenylephrine, a common decongestant ingredient in many over-the-counter cold medicines, is ineffective. Though the panel concluded that phenylephrine does not effectively relieve nasal congestion when taken orally, it is not considered dangerous, and the products containing it also contain other ingredients that do alleviate cold symptoms.
This decision may lead to the FDA banning the ingredient, which would result in the removal of hundreds of products from store shelves, including popular items like Tylenol, Mucinex, and Benadryl cold and flu remedies. While the FDA typically follows the recommendations of advisory panels, a final decision could take months, and may be contested or delayed by lawsuits and lobbying. The removal of phenylephrine from products would disrupt the market for cold medicines, and potentially lead to increased use of an alternative, pseudoephedrine, which is subject to sales restrictions due to its association with illicit methamphetamine production.