Cough syrups are slowly making their way from their hallowed presence in the medicine cabinet to just another means of intoxication (Rupa Gulab’s chick-lit Girl Alone pitched the cough syrup bottle as the protagonist’s constant companion through health and sickness.) Doctors around the world are shying away from prescribing the once-revolutionary drug as innumerable studies have been unable to prove their efficacy, with many even likening their effect to placebos. Of course, in India, they remain the general practitioner’s favourite and can even be bought over the counter without a prescription.
Do cough syrups work? Most linctuses contain active ingredients in combinations — antihistamines, decongestants, expectorants, suppressants and antipyretics — that are prescribed for different kinds of cough. Swaraj Mishra, ENT consultant at Moolchand Medcity in New Delhi, explains, “The type of cough syrup advised differs from patient to patient. For instance, both Benadryl and Corex, the most popular brands available in the market, work on completely different principles and have different functions; one is an expectorant while the other is a suppressant, but people assume them to be the same and buy them anyway.”