Antitussive drugs are used to suppress coughing by reducing the activity of cough and providing relief from dry cough. There are different types of antitussive agents used including centrally acting antitussives which consist of opioid derivatives, narcotics, non-opioids, and others. Locally acting antitussive agents comprise local anesthetics. Cough is an important protective reflex symptom in health, but when persistent for a long time, individuals have to seek medical attention. Around 40% of the world’s population suffer from cough at a given time. Upper respiratory tract infection is the most common cause of cough, and cough due to pulmonary disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and lung cancer are also common. Antitussive drugs are administered orally in the form of tablets, syrups, and vapor.
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A large portion of the population is able to buy antitussive drugs over-the-counter (OTC) for personal use and for their children. The efficacy of most antitussive drugs, particularly those used for upper respiratory tract infection, has been in question. The most commonly used antitussive drug is dextromethorphan which has been available over-the-counter in the U.S. since 1958. The rise in incidence of accidental overdose and abuse of antitussive drugs such as dextromethorphan has led to increase in study of efficacy and safety of antitussive drugs, particularly in children. Acute overdose of antitussive drug combination containing dextromethorphan have resulted in behavioral disturbances and respiratory depression.
Antitussive drugs such as mucolytics are administered through inhalation which helps to liquefy mucus in the respiratory tract. These antitussive drugs are generally inhaled by using nebulizer or directly instilled into the respiratory tract. The agent to be used as mucolytic antitussive drug is sodium chloride acetylcysteine. A popular strategy used to treat multiple symptoms in acute viral upper respiratory tract infection has been to use combination of active antitussive drug ingredients. For instance, the use of paracetamol with an antitussive drug for treating cough and headache has been proven useful.