OTC drugs containing phenylpropanolamine including cold remedies and diet drugs can significantly inrease the risk of haemorrhagic stroke in women.

Dr Walter Kernan and associates at Yale University School of Medicine compared 702 adult patients (below age 50 from 43 hospitals across the US) who had experienced a subarachnoid or an intracerebral haemorrhage with 1376 control subjects. Fifty five percent of the subjects were women.

After adjusting for race, hypertension and current smoking status, the odds ratio for haemorrhagic stroke in women with use of an appetite suppressant was 16.58, and 3.13 with the first use of a cough or cold remedy containing phenylpropanolamine.

There was no increased risk of haemorrhagic stroke in men with use of the compound in cough or cold remedies, and none of the men reported using appetite suppressants (N Engl J Med, 2000; 343: 1826-32).

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