Phenylpropanolamine is a drug used to relieve nasal congestion due to colds, hay fever, upper respiratory allergies, and sinusitis. It is available in nonprescription products alone and in combination with other nonprescription drugs, to treat symptoms of allergy, colds, and upper respiratory infections. Phenylpropanolamine is also used as an adjunct to calorie restriction in short-term weight loss. It is available in nonprescription products alone and in combination with other ingredients for weight loss.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to remove phenylpropanolamine from all drug products and has issued a public health advisory concerning phenylpropanolamine hydrochloride. This drug is an ingredient used in many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription cough and cold medications as a decongestant and in over-the-counter weight loss products. Phenylpropanolamine has been found to increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain or into tissue surrounding the brain) in women. Men may also be at risk. Although the risk of hemorrhagic stroke is very low, FDA recommends that consumers not use any products that contain phenylpropanolamine.
Ephedra is the plant from which the drug ephedrine was originally isolated. Phenylpropanolamine and ephedrine have similar effects and side effects.1 Until 2004, ephedra, also called ma huang, was used in many herbal products including supplements promoted for weight loss.
While interactions between phenylpropanolamine and ephedra have not been reported, it seems likely that such interactions could occur. To prevent potential problems, people taking phenylpropanolamine-containing products should avoid using ephedra/ephedrine-containing products.
1. Threlkeld DS, ed. Respiratory Drugs, Sympathomimetics. In Facts and Comparisons Drug Information. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, May 1994, 173a-3h.
2. Threlkeld DS, ed. Respiratory Drugs, Sympathomimetics. In Facts and Comparisons Drug Information. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, May 1994, 173a-3h.
Last Review: 04-29-2014
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