France issues health warning over 12 common cold and flu remedies

French health authorities have issued a warning over 12 common over-the-counter cold and flu remedies.

France issues health warning over 12 common cold and flu remedies
Photo: AFP

France's drug safety agency Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament (ANSM) has issued the warning about rare but potentially serious side effects including heart failure or stroke.

The warning largely concerns decongestants in tablet forms, some of which are combined decongestants and painkillers.

READ ALSO Coughs, colds and flu – what to do and what to say if you fall sick in France

The 12 named remedies are all available in pharmacies without prescription and are widely used in France, however in rare cases they can cause convulsions, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal bleeding and serious skin reactions as well as in more extreme cases heart failure and stroke.

The ANSM already publishes cold advice on its website, but from February the advice sheet will be in all pharmacies and included with certain types of remedy.

The health body notes that most colds get better by themselves within seven to 10 days without any need for medication. During that time patients are advised to drink plenty of water, sleep with their heads elevated and if necessary use nasal sprays of saline solution, thermal or sea water.

Decongestant tablets should not be taken for more than five days.

They should not be taken by pregnant women and the risks are higher in children under the age of 15, anyone with a history or risk factor of stroke, high blood pressure or heart problems, glaucoma, certain prostate problems and women who are breastfeeding.

Some decongestants also contain painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen or an antihistamine (cetirizine) so care should be taken if combining them with other medications.

The 12 products listed by the ANSM are; Actifed Lp Rhinite Allergique, Actifed Rhume, Actifed Rhume jour et nuit, Dolirhume Paracétamol et Pseudoéphédrine, Dolirhumepro Paracétamol, Pseudoéphédrine et Doxylamine, Humex Rhume, Nurofen Rhume, Rhinadvil Rhume Ibuprofène-Pseudoéphédrine, Rhinadvilcaps Rhume éphédrine, Rhinureflex and Rhumagrip.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.