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You Won’t Find These Cold Meds on Your CVS Shelves Any More. Here’s What to Buy Instead

When you get sick, the last thing you need is to waste your hard-earned money on a cold medicine that doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, millions of people may have been doing just that, thanks to some potentially ineffective products that have been sold for decades and that have become trusted household names during that time.

The good news is, CVS has now pulled those medications off the shelves because of new concerns about their effectiveness. Of course, this now means you’ll need to figure out what to buy instead. Here’s what you need to know to choose cold medicines that work.

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Here’s why CVS pulled some cold medications off its shelves

In mid-September, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced some troubling news about common cold medicines. According to the release, a panel of advisors to the FDA unanimously determined that oral phenylephrine isn’t effective at fighting congestion if you take the pill by mouth — which is what pretty much everyone does with over-the-counter cold meds.

Oral phenylephrine is the main active ingredient — and is sometimes the only cold-fighting ingredient, in at least some varieties of popular medications, including:

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  • Advil Sinus Congestion
  • Benadryl
  • Dayquil
  • Lusonal
  • Mucinex
  • Sinex
  • Sudafed PE
  • Tylenol Sinus

The 16 members of the FDA advisory panel unanimously agreed that the active ingredient in these medicines was not able to do its job and provide the effective relief from nasal congestion that patients were looking for.

Now CVS has removed products that contain only phenylephrine as the active ingredient, even though the FDA has not issued an official ruling yet that the drugs should be pulled from shelves. This decision is good news for consumers, who don’t need to be pulling out their credit cards to buy drugs most experts say don’t work.

Here’s what you should be buying instead

For those who are used to using the removed drugs to help treat their cold and sinus issues, it can be confusing to find the items they usually buy absent from the shelves — even though it’s better for their bank accounts not to waste money on ineffective drugs.

The good news is, there are plenty of other options out there. A different drug, pseudoephedrine, is proven effective at fighting congestion and is found in a huge number of different drugs available without a prescription.

The catch is, products with this drug are kept behind the counter and you have to show ID to buy them because of concerns they could be used to make methamphetamine. If you are buying a reasonable quantity of these drugs and not using them to manufacture illegal narcotics, the fact you have to produce a driver’s license to buy them shouldn’t be a big deal. And there’s no added risk to using them — they are kept behind the counter only because of the connection to illegal drugs.

Nasal spray antihistamines, corticosteroids, and saline products are an alternative as well, although you may have to get used to using a nasal spray if you’ve only ever taken pills for cold symptoms before.

Ultimately, it’s important to be an informed consumer when it comes to foods and medications that you’re buying so you don’t waste money and impact your personal finances. While CVS is taking these medications off store shelves due to their ineffectiveness, they’re still available for sale elsewhere, and you likely don’t want to buy any cold meds that have only phenylephrine in them as an active ingredient.

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