OTC Drugs Can Be Harmful to the Unborn Child
Pregnancy and lactation should be pristine times for a woman, leaving her body free of OTC drugs, prescription drugs, artificial preservatives and colourings. Throughout this period of development the fetus and infant are extremely susceptible to injuries from foreign chemicals which may permanently impair their health. Better safe than sorry…avoid ALL chemicals unless absolutely necessary.
Drug & Ther Perspect 16(3):12-1, 2000 As a general rule all drugs should be avoided during pregnancy. The risk of fetal toxicity far exceeds that of the mother because its undeveloped system is unable to efficiently eliminate drugs. Thus, the presumption of safety for the mother can not be applied to the fetus. There is a lack of data on the effects of OTC medication on fetal development and this, along with advertising by the pharmaceutical industry, may account for the increasing use of OTC medication during pregnancy. It has been estimated that about 50% of products taken during pregnancy are OTC medications. Maternal characteristics associated with increased OTC medication use during pregnancy include Caucasian race, smoking >20 cigarettes/day and consumption of alcohol. A number of currently available OTC products are associated with adverse fetal effects if taken during pregnancy. The effects of some OTC drugs on fetal outcome have not been established but these agents may have the potential to adversely affect the fetus (e.g. loperamide, cimetidine, imidazolines for nasal use). Loperamide, when administered to infants, produced paralytic ileus and drowsiness in 20% of recipients. Similarly, the potential for adverse fetal effects has been shown by cimetidine; there is substantial uptake of cimetidine by the fetus, it inhibits microsomal enzymes and it has been reported to produce fetal liver toxicity when used in late pregnancy. Although there is a lack of clinical data regarding the use of imidazolines for nasal decongestion during pregnancy, the potential for adverse fetal effects exists with these agents as they are vasoconstrictors. In addition to the active drug, OTC products contain inactive substances (excipients) such as dyes, sweeteners, flavouring or preservatives. These agents can initiate their own effects or potentiate the effects of the active drug. Excipients have been shown to produce adverse effects such as skin disorders, gastrointestinal problems and cardiovascular abnormalities in adults. Thus, the more vulnerable fetus may also be affected by these ingredients of OTC products.