IF YOU’RE taking drugs to stem a flu or dampen your appetite, read this before your next dosage.

A chemical ingredient in many over-the-counter (OTC) drugs for colds and appetite suppression increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding of the brain) if taken excessively, a five-year study says.

A Yale University study, titled “Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) & Risk of Hemorrhagic Stroke: Final Report of the Hemorrhagic Stroke Project,” showed that women who abused appetite suppressants containing PPA, exceeding the 75 mg recommended dose, are 16 times more likely to suffer a hemorrhagic stroke than non-users. First-time PPA drug users are three times more likely to suffer hemorrhage.

PPA is a vasoconstrictor, a drug that causes blood vessels to narrow and blood flow to slow down, causing blood pressure to increase. In some cases, the blood vessels rupture, inducing hemorrhage.

According to Emilynn Ocampo, UST Pharmacy clinical coordinator, PPA drugs are still being sold in the Philippines, but only as nasal decongestant. Some of these drugs are neozep, nafarin A, decolgen, and dimetapp, which normally contain about 12.5 mg of PPA. But overdosing and dependency to nasal decongestants can cause the same critical effects as appetite suppressants that normally contain 75 mg of PPA.

“PPA is used (in the Philippines) primarily as nasal decongestant and not as appetite suppressant. If used below the recommended dose of 75 mg per day, PPA can be effective,” Ocampo told the Varsitarian.

In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration ordered the ban of PPA-containing OTC drugs in the US, including nasal decongestants, after 30 published cases of alarming hemorrhagic strokes due to PPA use.

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Meanwhile, other countries like Malaysia, Brazil, Thailand, Korea, Canada, and China have asked their pharmaceutical companies to reformulate drugs containing PPA. Although there is no reported case of hemorrhagic stroke following PPA use in the Philippines, the Department of Health advises the public to check if the PPA drugs they use fall under the recommended dose. C. A. M. Tobias

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