Hundreds of infant multi-symptom cough and cold medicines are being voluntarily pulled from drug store shelves in the wake of pressure from pediatricians and a call by FDA officials to ban the sale of cough and cold meds marketed for children under six. 

Right now, the only items being pulled are those explicitly geared toward infants, but all that could change next week when the FDA meets with outside experts on the issue. Check out the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Associated Press coverage here.

The drugs in question are a common household item for many with kids, who tend to get more colds each year than adults.  According to an earlier Times report, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994 found that in one 30-day period, one-third of all American kids had taken one of these drugs.

Despite their ubiquity in the American medicine cabinet, there is no safety or efficacy data for these drugs in kids, and no dosing guidelines for children under two.  According to the trade association, the Consumer Healthcare Product Association, more than 60 deaths related to these drugs have been voluntarily reported since 1969. Check out the CHPA press release here.

And yet, the makers of these drugs—including big hitters like Johnson and Johnson, Wyeth and Novartis—spent over $50 million to advertise these over-the counter remedies last year alone. And it seemed to pay off: more than 41 million units of the drugs were sold during that time, with some stores stocking over 30 different types.

PostScript found about that many when we went shopping to confirm what the Gray Lady hinted: that two weeks after the CHPA’s own recommendation to remove infant cough meds from shelves, many still hadn’t been pulled.

In addition to oral droppers indicating infant use, we found a couple expectorant tongue strips, called mini melts, which PostScript used to think was the name of an ice cream topping. 

Whether the under-2 ban holds or is extended to other pediatric therapies, the cold remedy aisle at the local CVS is bound to become a little less friendly.  Less kids on bikes. Less kids waiting for the school bus. Less Mucinex Mini Mes.  Less kite flying and fruit punch and grape. And less of Postscript’s favorite—the kid on antihistamines sharing a pillow with the family dog. 

But less of that means less kids at risk, and that is a relief—in the true sense of the word.