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Systematic review
There is no good evidence for the effectiveness of commonly used over-the-counter medicine to alleviate acute cough
  1. An De Sutter
  1. Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to : Dr An De Sutter, Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, Ghent University, Ghent 9000, Belgium; an.desutter{at}

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Commentary on: OpenUrlPubMed


Acute cough is common and the demand for (and sale of) over-the-counter (OTC) cough medication is high, even for young children where serious side effects have been described.1 Keeping the evidence up-to-date is very important.


The authors searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, LILACS, Web of Science and the UK Department of Health National Research Register for randomised controlled trials comparing oral OTC cough medications to placebo in adults and children. Six types of cough medicines were reviewed and included: antitussives, expectorants, mucolytics, antihistamine decongestant combinations, antihistamines and other combinations. The effectiveness of honey was also reviewed. Selected studies were independently reviewed by two authors. The risk of bias was assessed.


The authors included 29 trials, …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.