Drug linked to strokes

By ERIC STEVICK

Herald Writer

The Food and Drug Administration wants drug companies to remove voluntarily over-the-counter cold remedies and diet pills that contain an ingredient that could cause hemorrhagic strokes, and local retail chains are studying the warning.

The government on Monday alerted consumers to the risks posed by products containing phenylpropanolamine, also known as PPA, which is used in nasal decongestants to relieve stuffy nose or sinus congestion and in weight control products to curb appetite.

The FDA warning is based on results of a study conducted by scientists at Yale University that showed an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, a bleeding in the brain, in people who were taking PPA.

For consumers, the FDA’s unusually strong health warning says: "We suggest you stop taking the drug immediately and use an alternative."

PPA has been used for many years and "a very small number" of people taking the drug have had strokes, according to an FDA fact sheet.

In the Yale study, PPA increases stroke risk for young women within three days of taking PPA-containing appetite suppressants, or within three days of taking their first-ever PPA dose for any reason. In some cases, using PPA increased stroke risk 12- to 15-fold.

Several chain stores with a presence in Snohomish County said Monday they will wait and see what the FDA ultimately decides to do. The FDA is preparing to ban PPA but legal steps will take a few months.

"I think it’s a heads up to consumers, and we are there to be a resource," said Barry Bartlett, a spokesman for Bartell Drugs, which has 49 stores in the region.

"… The company is going to be monitoring the situation very closely," Bartlett added.

Several retailers were learning secondhand about the FDA warning. In the past, the issue has been debated between the government and manufacturers.

"We currently don’t have any information from the FDA, but when we do we will abide by what they ask us to do and remove whatever they ask to have removed in the manner they ask," said Cherie Myers, a Safeway Co. spokeswoman.

Consumers should look for PPA in the ingredient list of over-the-counter cold medicines and choose decongestant pills containing the safe alternative "pseudoephedrine," said Laura Bradbard, an FDA spokeswoman. Most manufacturers that make the medicines with PPA also have similar products with safe alternatives, she said.

A case in point is Contac. Its 12-hour "Cold Capsules" contain PPA but five other Contac versions contain the safe pseudoephedrrine.

There is no list of which over-the-counter products contain PPA. For now, it will be up to consumers to look for it or for manufacturers to voluntarily stop selling the PPA-containing drugs, Bradbard said.

The risk of a hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding in the brain, is very small to an individual user. These are often deadly strokes, and survivors can be left disabled. With millions of Americans swallowing PPA daily, the FDA estimated it could be to blame for 200 to 500 strokes just in people younger than age 50.

The FDA’s records show 44 cases of hemorrhagic stroke among PPA users in the past 30 years. Most were women; the median age was 35 — including a few who died while using diet pills even though medical records showed they weren’t overweight.

Nobody knows why PPA increases stroke risk, although first-time PPA use sometimes temporarily raises blood pressure, an effect that wanes as the body gets used to the drug.

The study didn’t find men at risk, but the FDA cautioned that enough men weren’t studied to be sure they’re OK.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Ariel Garcia, 4, was last seen Wednesday morning in an apartment in the 4800 block of Vesper Dr. (Photo provided by Everett Police)
How to donate to the family of Ariel Garcia

Everett police believe the boy’s mother, Janet Garcia, stabbed him repeatedly and left his body in Pierce County.

A ribbon is cut during the Orange Line kick off event at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘A huge year for transit’: Swift Orange Line begins in Lynnwood

Elected officials, community members celebrate Snohomish County’s newest bus rapid transit line.

Bethany Teed, a certified peer counselor with Sunrise Services and experienced hairstylist, cuts the hair of Eli LeFevre during a resource fair at the Carnegie Resource Center on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Carnegie center is a one-stop shop for housing, work, health — and hope

The resource center in downtown Everett connects people to more than 50 social service programs.

Everett mall renderings from Brixton Capital. (Photo provided by the City of Everett)
Topgolf at the Everett Mall? Mayor’s hint still unconfirmed

After Cassie Franklin’s annual address, rumors circled about what “top” entertainment tenant could be landing at Everett Mall.

Foamy brown water, emanating a smell similar to sewage, runs along the property line of Lisa Jansson’s home after spilling off from the DTG Enterprises property on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Snohomish, Washington. Jansson said the water in the small stream had been flowing clean and clear only a few weeks earlier. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Neighbors of Maltby recycling facility assert polluted runoff, noise

For years, the DTG facility has operated without proper permits. Residents feel a heavy burden as “watchdogs” holding the company accountable.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Stanwood man gets federal prison for selling fentanyl on dark web

In 2013, Christerfer Frick was sentenced to nine years for trafficking drugs. He began selling online upon his release in 2020.

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

Dan Templeman speaks during a forum lead by The Daily Herald on housing affordability at the Mukilteo Library on Thursday, April 11, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
At Herald forum, experts affirm Housing First model, despite downsides

At the Mukilteo Library, panelists discussed drug-contaminated housing and lengthy cleanup efforts in Snohomish County.

Molbak's Garden + Home in Woodinville, Washington closed on Jan. 28 2024. (Photo courtesy of Molbak's)
Molbak’s, former Woodinville garden store, hopes for a comeback

Molbak’s wants to create a “hub” for retailers and community groups at its former Woodinville store. But first it must raise $2.5 million.

A fire at a home near Alderwood Mall sent one neighbor and one firefighter to the hospital. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
Officials: Residents returned to burning Lynnwood home to rescue dogs

Five people and six dogs were displaced in the Thursday afternoon house fire, according to South County Fire.

Featuring a pink blush over a yellow background, WA 64 combines qualities of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink (aka Pink Lady) for a firm, crisp, sweet and tart bite. A naming contest for the new apple runs through May 5, 2024. (Photo provided by Washington State University)
Hey Honeycrisp, this new breed of apple needs a name

Enter a naming contest for WA 64, a hybrid apple with the same baby daddy as Cosmic Crisp.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Lynnwood woman, 83, killed in wrong-way crash following police pursuit

Deputies said they were chasing a man, 37, south on Highway 525 when he swerved into northbound lanes, killing an oncoming driver.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.