CVS should remove certain cold medications from its shelves

Cold and flu medications, including NyQuil, are on a store shelf in Miami on September 12, 2023.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

CVS is removing some of its most common cough and cold remedies from shelves and will no longer sell them, a company spokesperson told CNBC on Thursday.

The company’s decision comes a month after a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel unanimously concluded that the key ingredient in many popular over-the-counter cold and allergy medications doesn’t actually help relieve stuffy noses when taken orally.

The FDA has not yet decided whether to require drug manufacturers and retailers such as CVS to remove from the market products that contain oral phenylephrine – a nasal decongestant that is found in versions of drugs such as NyQuil, Benadryl, Sudafed and Mucinex .

However, CVS is voluntarily removing from stores certain cough and cold products that contain phenylephrine as the only active ingredient.

CVS is aware of the FDA advisers’ decision and will follow the agency’s guidance to ensure that products sold in the company’s stores comply with laws and regulations, the spokesman said. They added that CVS stores will continue to offer other oral cough and cold products to meet patient needs.

Oral products that list phenylephrine as the only active ingredient include: Sudafed PEwhich is marketed by Johnson & Johnson’s consumer health spin-off Kenvue. Kenvue did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on CVS’s decision.

First, the Wall Street Journal reported about the CVS decision on Thursday.

The complete withdrawal of oral phenylephrine could impact CVS and other retail pharmacy chains that derive revenue from sales of over-the-counter cold and allergy pills.

According to FDA officials, U.S. retail stores sold 242 million bottles of phenylephrine-containing drugs last year, a 30% increase from 2021. These bottles generated $1.8 billion in sales last year, according to the data.

Without oral phenylephrine, patients will also likely be forced to seek liquid and spray versions of the medications or entirely new medications that were not included in FDA advisers’ review.

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