London: People spend billions of pounds in a year on popular over-the-counter medicines like cough syrups, flu tablets, slimming pills and many others, but experts have revealed that they do not work as well as they claim to do.
Brands such as Benylin, Covonia, Seven Seas and Bach are part of an over-the-counter healthcare industry with sales worth more than 3billion pounds a year.
But an assessment by consumer campaigners Which? and a panel of medical experts has questioned what health benefits they have.
The manufacturer of Benylin Chesty Coughs Non-Drowsy claims it ‘works deep down to loosen phlegm, clear bronchial congestion, and make your cough more productive’.
But the Which? experts said the company provided no evidence of effectiveness.
The product’s key active ingredient is guaifenesin, but the experts said the studies that are used to support the claims of its effectiveness are low quality.
Benylin Tickly Coughs is said to have ‘soothing effects’ and ‘relieves tickly, dry coughs’. The active ingredients of the mixture are sugar alcohol (glycerol) and liquid sugar (sucrose). It also includes other sugars such as black treacle.
However, the experts said the mixture is roughly half sugar and its effectiveness is ‘unproven’.
The team also cast doubt about the claims made for Covonia Herbal Mucus Cough Syrup.
Which? said companies must be honest about what these products – which are often expensive – can do, particularly when it comes to important issues like health.
“We spend billions on over-the-counter pharmacy products each year but we’ve found evidence of popular products making claims that our experts judged just aren’t backed by sufficient evidence,” the paper quoted a spokesman as saying.
“Companies should be upfront with the evidence behind the claims they make so that consumers can make an informed decision,” the spokesman added.
Seven Seas Jointcare Be Active tablets contain three ingredients glucosamine, omega 3 and chondroitin and use the marketing claim: ‘Keep really active with this everyday plan to look after your joints.’
But the Which? experts said the amount of the three ingredients in the tablets was ‘well below effective levels’.
Bach Rescue Remedy Spray, a flower essence that is claimed to comfort and reassure, is another product the panel has examined.
The firm claims it ‘provides support at times of emotional stress’. However, the experts pointed to research showing it is no more or less effective than a placebo.
Bio-Oil is promoted on the basis it can improve the appearance of scars but Which? said it was likely to be no more effective than the use of massage with other moisturising lotions.
Adios Slimming tablets include the active plant extracts boldo, butternut, dandelion root and fucus. These are said to ‘help speed up weight loss by acting on the body’s metabolism’.
But the experts said the trials used as evidence to back up the claims were not robust enough.
Boots Cold and Flu Relief tablets are sold to relieve symptoms such as fever, aches and pains. But, according to the experts, the dosage of paracetamol of 400mg is below the 500mg, which is normally recommended.