/Should we better regulate flavored medicines?

Should we better regulate flavored medicines?

Paracetamol with a cappuccino flavor, an anti-diarrhea flavored with strawberries… flavored medicines are on the increase. The National Medicines Health Agency (ANSM) wishes to better control the advertising around these products.

For children, taking medication is seldom fun. So, for years, pharmaceutical companies have been competing in their imagination to make them swallow the pill. And they found the parade: adding a good taste of red berries or citrus fruits to medications. A good idea in principle, but according to Michèle Delaunay, PS member of the Gironde, the objective is clearly commercial. “A drug, we buy it only for its therapeutic virtues. Well today, marketing is all about taste and scent. So it’s no longer a medicine, it’s like when you are sold a shampoo that tastes like this or a scented cream that smells like bananas.“, She believes.

Risks of severe acute hepatitis

Michèle Delaunay alerted the Ministry of Health to the risks of these flavored drugs. In his sights: paracetamol. Like a candy, Doliprane®, Efferalgan®, Daffalgan®, and other Fervex®, are now available in all flavors. But they are not a treat. Like any medicine, they can be toxic. “As soon as we are above two or three times the dose, the liver which metabolizes it is saturated. But if you reach four times the dose because the child has stolen the medicine from the drawer, the risk is a severe acute hepatitis which can lead to emergency room admission or even destruction of the liver which will require a transplant“, Explains Michèle Delaunay.

Fear of assimilation between drugs and confectionery

This crusade against flavored drugs surprises manufacturers: “There is no public health problem. We have not had any incidents reported, observes the Association for Responsible Self-Medication (AFIPA) which defends the interests of manufacturers of drugs sold without a prescription. “Contrary to what we hear, this is not something that is rapidly developing. Today, there are 122 references of flavored drugs out of 15,667 self-medication drugs, so that represents less than 1% of the references“, Recalls AFIPA.

To close the debate, the National Medicines Safety Agency (ANSM) has ruled. Regardless of the number of products concerned, she believes that communication around flavored medicines must be better supervised. “Even if there are few, there is a tendency for there to be more and more advertisements for these drugs which highlight, to sell, this aroma, this taste. So the ANSM has decided to be much more demanding on these packaging so that there is no assimilation between drugs and confectionery“, Says Carole Le Saulnier, director of legal and regulatory affairs at ANSM.

Low profile for aromas

For greater clarity, the ANSM is today publishing its official recommendations on its website. It does not prohibituse of flavorings in medicines, but it requires that the flavor name appears on the box : “In a neutral and non-promotional manner (…) applicants and holders must ensure in particular that the mention of the flavor on the outer packaging of medicinal products appears in a non-ostentatious manner”.

In the meantime, to mask the taste of a medicine, remember that it is always possible to prefer the good old methods to aromas: dilute it for example in yogurt, or in a glass of orange juice.