Sales of kids’ cold remedies plummet in wake of warning

WASHINGTON – Sales of over-the-counter cold remedies for children have fallen sharply since a federal panel concluded they should not be used for children younger than 6 because of a dearth of evidence that they work and concerns they can be dangerous.

Even though the winter cold season has begun, sales of the products, which have been rising steadily for years, dropped more than 16 percent in the four weeks that ended Nov. 3, compared both with the previous four-week period and with the same period last year, according to the first estimates since the panel’s Oct. 19 pronouncement.

“Historically, sales of these products are on an upswing at this time of year,” said Jennifer Frighetto of ACNielsen, a market research firm that tracks the sales. “Based on the historical sales, one would have expected to see an increase, not a decrease.”

Americans spent $21.1 million on the medications during the four weeks, the most recent period for which data are available, down from a little more than $25.3 million during the previous four weeks, the firm reported.

“This is good news,” said Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, who is leading the drive to get the Food and Drug Administration to restrict use of the products.

The pharmaceutical industry maintains that the remedies are safe and effective and said it is too soon to attribute the drop to the recent criticisms of them.

Several pediatricians disagreed, saying they had seen many parents in recent weeks who said they had stopped giving the medications to their children since hearing about the warnings.

“It really frightened a lot of parents,” said Joanna Sexter, of Spring Valley Pediatrics in the District of Columbia. “Sometimes these stories come out, and parents challenge it and pooh-pooh it. This time, that didn’t happen. I’ve had a lot of parents say they just threw it all away.”

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