Phenylpropanolamine Chain Letter Confuses, Misinforms

Truth is corrupted by fiction in an e-mail chain letter that tries to warn about the dangers of the recalled drug phenylpropanolamine.

The FDA asked drug makers to recall the drug–used in several over-the-counter cold medicines and some weight loss products–and it has been connected to a minor increase in the chance of hemorrahgic stroke in women. But the e-mail’s long list of medications is inaccurate, and mis-information has begun to creep in.

Here’s the original e-mail:

Date Collected: 3/7/2004

Thought you would like to know.

FYI Also verified this on

Subject: Medication Recall

Thought you might want to be aware of this. There is a link at the
bottom to confirm the information…..


Medication Recall (link below)

All drugs containing PHENYLPROPANOLAMINE are being recalled. You may want to try calling the 800 number listed on most drug boxes and inquire about a REFUND.

Please read this CAREFULLY. Also, please pass this on to everyone you know.

STOP TAKING anything containing this ingredient. It has been linked to increased hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in brain) among women ages 18-49 in the three days after starting use of medication. Problems were not found in men, but the FDA recommended that everyone (even children) seek alternative medicine.

The following medications contain Phenylpropanolamine:

Acutrim Diet Gum Appetite Suppressant

Acutrim Plus Dietary Supplements

Acutrim Maximum Strength Appetite Control

Alka-Seltzer Plus Children’s Cold Medicine


Alka-SeltzerPlus Cold medicine (cherry or orange)

Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine

Original Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold &Cough Medicine


Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold &Flu Medicine

Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold &Sinus Effervescent

Alka-Seltzer Plus Night-Time Cold Medicine

BC AllergySinus Cold Powder

BC Sinus Cold Powder

Comtrex Flu Therapy & Fever Relief Day & Night

Contac 12-Hour Cold Capsules

Contac 12 Hour Caplets

Coricidin D Cold, Flu & Sinus

Dexatrim Caffeine Free

Dexatrim Extended

Duration Dexatrim Gelcaps

Dexatrim Vitamin C/Caffeine Free

Dimetapp Cold &Allergy Chewable Tablets

Dimetapp Cold &Cough Liqui-Gels

Dimetapp DM Cold &Cough Elixir

Dimetapp Elixir Dimetapp 4 Hour Liquid Gels

Dimetapp 4 Hour Tablets

Dimetapp 12 Hour Extentabs Tablets

Naldecon DX Pediatric Drops

Permathene Mega-16

Robitussin CF

Tavist-D 12 Hour Relief of Sinus &Nasal Congestion

Triaminic DM Cough Relief

Triaminic Expectorant Chest &Head

Triaminic Syrup Cold &Allergy

Triaminic Triaminicol Cold &Cough…

I just found out and called the 800 number on the container for triaminic and they informed me that they are voluntarily recalling the following medicines because of a certain ingredient that is causing strokes and seizures in children:

Orange 3D Cold & Allergy

Cherry (Pink) 3D Cold &Cough

Berry 3D Cough Relief

Yellow 3D Expectorant

They are asking you to call them at 800-548-3708 with the lot number on
the box so they can send you postage for you to send it back to them,
and they will also issue you a refund.

If you know of anyone else with small children, PLEASE PASS THIS ON.



They can then pass it along to their families.

To confirm these findings please take time to check the following:

URL: Phenylpropanolamine Information Page =

I don’t doubt that this started off as a well meaning e-mail, but as time goes on, and it gets passed along, it’s morphing into something worse than useless.

As I mentioned at the opening, phenylpropanolamine really has been recalled, and as the e-mail states, it was because of an increased risk of stroke among women (the cases that inspired the recall involved young women who were taking the drug as part of a diet pill). Nothing that I read indicated that there was any sort of increased risk for seizures or stroke in children but as a precaution, children’s medicine was recalled as well.

The companies who used phenylpropanolamine recalled their products voluntarily. These products were then re-forumlated, removing the problem drug and presumably replacing it with something less dangerous. The new, phenylpropanolamine-free products were then returned to the market.

And there in lies the rub. You see, many of the products on this list did contain phenylpropanolamine, but they have since been recalled and reworked. The e-mal makes no effort to indicate what’s been updated — it only warns about what had contained phenylpropanolamine. And unfortunately, some of the drugs that it lists never contained phenylpropanolamine (or only certain versions of it did)

Here’s a case in point. If you go to this page on the Novartis Web site, you’ll find that Tavist-D and a few kinds of Triaminic used the drug. But you’ll also find that many did not. You’ll also see that sometimes the “daytime” version of a certain product contained it, while the “night time” version didn’t.

What a freaking headache.

The FDA is not helping the situation — their web site contains the bare-bones facts about the recall, but refuses to list any information about products that contain (or don’t contain) the drug in question. The FDA says that there are too many products changing to quickly for them to maintain a list, but I figure if they can force companies to recall this drug (a move that undoubtedly cost the companies millions of dollars) they can spend a few bucks and maintain a list that would negate this sort of nonsense.

And finally, remember that line that started off this whole e-mail? The one about this having been proved true by Well, that’s kind of true too … did do a write-up on the the re-call, but their official call on this was “True (but outdated). ” So what to do? Well I think the FDA’s advice is the best — check your medication before using it, and if you’re not sure whether it’s safe, call the company’s 1-800 number and ask them. When you’re at the store, check ingredient list for phenylpropanolamine.


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