Dubai/Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Health has issued a circular to all government and private hospitals and managers of private pharmacies instructing them not to dispense cough and cold medications for children under six years old.

Dr Ameen Bin Hassan Al Amiri, Executive Director for Medical Practices and Licensing, said the move was in line with the practices of international drug authorities, as these medicines were not proven effective for this age group, besides the side effects they may cause, such as allergies, sleepiness and hallucination, particularly for children under six.

He said the circular limits selling these drugs for children between 6 and 12 only upon a medical prescription.

Al Amiri said the Department of Registration and Drug Control would inform all manufacturing companies of these drugs to include a warning not to dispense these drugs for children under six. The warning should be printed on the drug pamphlet in many languages including Arabic, within six months from now.

Doctors feel the decision taken by the ministry to control over-the-counter medicines for children is timely and consistent with international recommendations.

"This is an international decision that all countries must adhere to. Before this decision was implemented, only cough syrups and medicine with antihistamin [used to treat allergies, hypersensitive reactions and colds] and codeine [derivative of opium; used to relieve coughing and to relieve pain] needed a doctors prescription," said Dr B.R. Shetty, Managing Director and CEO of NMC Specialty Hospitals.

The decision will encourage parents to visit a doctor more often and get the proper medical prescription and treatment, he added.

Dr Shamsheer VP, Managing Director at Lifeline Hospital questioned the effectiveness of cough and cold medicines given the evidence of serious side effects including death in a few cases.

With inputs from Dina El Shammaa, Staff Reporter

Do you give your child cough or cold medicine? Did you know that such medicines were harmful to young one?

Your comments

Some had been shown not to be effective, the idea that they all case harm is just ridiculous and clearly not actually true. Though of course doctors are going to agree to this, it increases the amount of money they can earn by forcing everyone to see them when they don't need to.
Keith Martin
Posted: March 13, 2009, 11:42

Yes, it is right to ban it because the public blindly uses these OTC's without asking a physician or a pharmacist.
Syed Ali
Posted: March 13, 2009, 10:58

We are using cough and cold medicines for our children. Should we continue giving it or discuss it with a doctor first?
Ras Al Khaimah,UAE
Posted: March 13, 2009, 10:11

It is good to restrict selling cough medicines for children but is it a practical solution? I have a couple of queries... - How would a pharmacy know that the drug is going to be used by only those who are above the age of six? Secondly, there are several medicines that have herbal extracts and no alcohol that are quite safe to use. I would suggest that these should be made available in the market for use. Visiting a doctor can be expensive and getting a cold/cough, especially during change of season is common. Those who cannot afford a doctor may suffer in silence and spread the infection to more people as there would be no medication. What I may suggest is create an awareness among people how one can avoid catching a cold and reduce the spreading of infection.
Posted: March 13, 2009, 07:35

Thankfuly the minstry banned these harmful medicines, but unfortunatly they didin't give or even suggest alternatives.
Abu Yousuf
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: March 13, 2009, 07:10

Please suggest what to do in case a child has got a cough, any precoutions?
Shoieb A. Khan
Posted: March 13, 2009, 06:52

Some time ago, I heard this information and have since stopped giving my children such medicine without a doctor's prescription. Medicine as we know it is still very new to us and is difficult to predict long term effects. I am so happy to hear that countries around the world are up-to-date on the same information and I hope that parents are acting accordingly with caution. Thank you for your report!
Steph Wiebe
Posted: March 13, 2009, 05:35