Medicines for persistent coughs have no clinical benefit, a new report has claimed.
The study in the British Journal of General Practice, compared various cough medicines a a placebo and found no examples that proved medication speeds up recovery or improves symptoms.
‘This review indicates that, despite being one of the most common causes for seeking medical advice in primary care, there is no beneficial treatment for subacute cough,’ said Benjamin Speich and his fellow researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland.
‘Considering the problem of overtreatment, spending time with the patient to explain the illness might be crucial for patient satisfaction.’
The researchers analysed clinical trials that had randomly allocated patients to medication or placebo treatment for those suffering coughs between 3 and 8 weeks.
Significantly, researchers revealed that 14% of patients instead experienced poor side effects, such as headaches, chest pain, nausea and in some cases, the worsening of coughs.
The researchers concluded: ‘Evidence on treatment options for subacute cough is weak. There is no treatment showing clear patient-relevant benefits in clinical trials.’
These results follow advice from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released in August which stated that honey and over-the-counter medicines are the best course of action to treat a cough. This was a move to lower the number of antibiotic prescriptions. By advocating these treatments, NICE hope to reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance and the over-prescription of antibiotics for minor illnesses.
It is estimated that coughs have an economic cost of £979 million a year across the UK, of which £875 million is due to lost productivity and sick days and the remaining £104 million to the health service.