Which cough medicines have been withdrawn? Full list of medicines containing pholcodine

Here's everything you need to know about the pholcodine recall

A close up of a woman puring cough medicine onto a spoon with a child lying down in the background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

People are asking which cough medicines have been withdrawn, following a product recall over safety fears.

Popular cough medicines are being withdrawn from sale over fears people may suffer a serious allergic reaction to the ingredient pholcodine. The news has left consumers eager to know which cough medicines they can no longer use, as many search for natural cough remedies, natural cold remedies and sore throat remedies too, as alternative forms of medication. Meanwhile, in the US, there is growing concern over a number of eye drop recalls too.

Dr Alison Cave, Chief Safety Officer for the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said of the pholcodine recall, "Safety is our top priority, and we keep the safety of medicines under continual review. Following a thorough scientific safety review of all the available evidence on pholcodine, together with advice from the independent Commission on Human Medicines, it has been recommended, as a precautionary measure, that these products should no longer be used." 

Which cough medicines have been withdrawn?

Health officials working with the MHRA have withdrawn 20 brands of dry cough medicine containing the ingredient pholcodine from shelves across the UK. The decision has been made "as a precaution" following a scientific safety review.

The list of products recalled include medicines from Boots, Covonia, Bell's Healthcare, Superdrug and Day & Night Nurse. Pharmacists have been ordered to immediately stop supplying medicines that contain pholcodine and to quarantine all remaining stock before returning the products to suppliers.

Which cough medicines contain pholcodine? The full list

  • Boots Night Cough Relief Oral Solution, PL 00014/0230
  • Boots Dry Cough Syrup 6 Years+, PL 00014/0523
  • Boots Day Cold & Flu Relief Oral Solution, PL 00014/0565
  • Cofsed Linctus, PL 00240/0097
  • Care Pholcodine 5mg/5ml Oral Solution Sugar Free, PL 00240/0101
  • Galenphol Linctus, PL 00240/0101
  • Galenphol Paediatric Linctus, PL 00240/0102
  • Galenphol Strong Linctus, PL 00240/0103
  • Covonia Dry Cough Sugar Free Formula, PL 00240/0353
  • Pholcodine Linctus Bells Healthcare 5mg Per 5ml Oral Solution, PL 03105/0059
  • Numark Pholcodine 5mg per 5ml Oral Solution, PL 03105/0059
  • Well Pharmaceuticals Pholcodine 5mg per 5ml Oral Solution, PL 03105/0059
  • Superdrug Pholcodine Linctus BP, PL 03105/0059
  • Strong Pholcodine Linctus BP, PL 03105/0060
  • Pholcodine Linctus BP, PL 04917/0002
  • Strong Pholcodine Linctus BP, PL 04917/0005
  • Pholcodine Linctus, PL 12965/0030
  • Day & Night Nurse Capsules, PL 44673/0068
  • Day Nurse Capsules, PL 44673/0069
  • Day Nurse, PL 44673/0075

Does Night Nurse contain pholcodine?

Capsules of Night Nurse, Day Nurse and Day & Night Nurse contain pholcodine and are therefore being recalled. However, other Day & Night Nurse products - such as the liquid versions of the cold and flu medicine - have not been included in the recall.

A bottle of liquid Night Nurse

(Image credit: Alamy)

Why has pholcodine been withdrawn?

Medicines containing pholcodine have been withdrawn over concerns that the ingredient can trigger sudden, life-threatening allergic reactions in people who go on to have a general anaesthetic before surgery up to a year later.

This follows assessment of the risk of 'very rare' anaphylaxis - a major allergic reaction - when people who have taken pholcodine in the previous 12 months have a general anaesthetic with neuromuscular blocking agents. 

The MHRA said: "The available data has demonstrated that pholcodine use, particularly in the 12 months before general anaesthesia with NMBAs, is a risk factor for developing an anaphylactic reaction to NMBAs."

They added, "Following a comprehensive scientific safety review of the latest available data on the safety of pholcodine, together with advice from the independent Commission on Human Medicines, it has been concluded that the potential risks outweigh the benefits for these products."

The risk of an allergic reaction to pholcodine is low, however, at less than one in 10,000.

Is pholcodine different to codeine?

Pholcodine is related to codeine, but pholcodine is a medicine which helps you to stop coughing, whereas codeine is a painkiller.

Pholcodine has generally been considered safer than codeine in the past, and products containing pholcodine do not need a prescription - although they cannot be bought without consultation with the pharmacist as they are kept behind the counter. Meanwhile, codeine is only available with a prescription.

What to do if you have taken pholcodine

Patients who are due to have surgery should tell their anaesthetist beforehand if they think they have taken pholcodine in the previous year and are about to undergo general anaesthetic.

People who are taking cough medicines and have such cough tablets or syrups in their homes are advised to check the packaging, label or patient information leaflet to see if pholcodine is listed as an ingredient. If it is, then pharmacists can advise on alternative suitable medications for relief from coughing.

Video of the Week

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.