I'm a Pharmacist and Never Recommend These Medicines

·4 min read

Prescription and over-the-counter medications can help improve health issues and provide remedies for countless conditions, but not all of them work. Many are ineffective and not worth taking or spending your money on. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with pharmacists who reveal which medications to avoid and why. Doing your own homework and speaking with your physician for medical advice is always advised. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Medications Containing Guaifenesin

Dr. Ani Rostomyan, Doctor of Pharmacy, Holistic Pharmacist and Functional Medicine Practitioner explains, "Guaifenesin is a medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as expectorants, which means they clear mucus (phlegm) from airways. Guaifenesin is a medication that can be purchased over-the- counter or with a prescription. It's also one of the common ingredients in popular cold and flu medications. Expectorants essentially thin the mucus, loosen the congestion in your chest and throat and make it easier for you to remove the mucus by coughing. The evidence behind guaifenesin efficacy is not consistent and has shown in small studies, to be somewhat effective compared with placebo (placebo is essentially a sugar pill). Larger, more systemized study search has shown the evidence is not valid for effectiveness. A study published in 2014 by Hoffer-Schaefer et al., concluded no benefit of using guaifenesin, to loosen up mucus, or improve the course of respiratory tract infections.  This product is recommended to take with plenty of water, which seems to help loosen up mucus on its own. The same principle is applied to combination products of guaifenesin with dextromethorphan (DM), which is a cough suppressant and also hasn't shown good evidence to help with cough suppression and is quite often in the list of abused OTC medications."

2

Phenylephrine

man holding his nose because sinus pain
man holding his nose because sinus pain

Dr. Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS Chief Academic Officer, ACMA tells us, "This medication is over-the-counter and taken as a decongestant. It was created to substitute pseudoephedrine (which actually works) as an over-the-counter option as a decongestant. Many companies rebranded and used phenylephrine as the active ingredient. It did not work. Clinical data shows the phenylephrine is no better than placebo. I recommend that if you really need a decongestant you see the pharmacist who can give you pseudoephedrine."

3

Diphenhydramine

sleep
sleep

Dr. Soliman explains, "Diphenhydramine is found in popular sleedaids. While it does cause drowsiness and can help one sleep but oftentimes you are overpaying by selecting one of the name brand products that does exactly the same thing as a generic diphenhydramine. You'll be paying more for no added benefit." 

4

Weight Loss Products

closeup weight gain scale
closeup weight gain scale

Dr. Rostomyan says, "Over-the-counter weight loss products are another great example to discuss. Since the FDA categorizes them as supplements, there's really no way to regulate that industry. As a clinical pharmacist, I would not categorize them as safe and effective weight loss agents, due to lack of evidence and possibility of adverse reactions. There have been instances where these products have shown in lab testing to contain thyroid or adrenal gland extracts to boost metabolism, putting individuals taking them in danger of adverse events. Some supplements claiming to aid weight loss are herbal supplements such as fenugreek, green tea, and yerba mate. Other examples would be glucomannan, caralluma fimbriata, griffonia simplicifolia and garcinia cambogia. This pooled data from a Cochrane review of 15 randomized control trials by Jurgens TM et al. from 2012, showed that green tea extract containing naturally occurring catechins and caffeine weight loss and weight-loss maintenance was so small in overweight and obese adults that it was insignificant. Also, caffeine poses a risk to increase blood pressure and should be cautiously used or avoided by people with a risk of heart or blood pressure problems." 

5

Prevagen

Sacred mature woman.
Sacred mature woman.

The national widespread marketing push for prevagen touted the brain health supplement as a way to improve memory loss, but there's no scientific evidence that it's true, according to Dr. Soliman. "The Federal Trade Commission and NY attorney general sued the makers of prevagen for false claims that it improves memory and/or brain functioning.  There is limited evidence about how well prevagen works and limited clinical data to support its use. There is also concern regarding whether or not we can absorb and use the active ingredients in prevagen. In addition, it is not FDA-approved for memory loss and should not be used in cases of serious memory issues."