County health officer warns against using PPA

November 08, 2000

County health officer warns against using PPA

By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

Washington County's health officer Tuesday urged people not to buy or continue using cold remedies or diet pills containing an ingredient that could cause hemorrhagic strokes, even though the drugs remain on shelves at some local pharmacies.

"I'm somewhat surprised some pharmacies are still keeping it on (the shelves), waiting for some formal noting from the FDA," said County Health Officer William Christoffel.

"The FDA had an unusually strong wording Monday, basically telling Americans not to use it," Christoffel said.

The Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to remove phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, from all drug products and is asking drug companies to stop marketing such products, according to the public health warning posted at the FDA's Web site at

While attention has been given to young women in particular, no one should continue taking medications containing PPA, said Christoffel and Dr. Stephen Lippman, an endocrinologist at Washington County Hospital.


It's not worth the risk, no matter how slim, of having an hemorrhagic stroke, Christoffel and Lippman said.

The ingredient is used in appetite suppressants, such as Dexatrim and cold remedies such as Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold and Cough, Comtrex and Coricidan, Lippman said. Customers can look for it among the ingredients of nonprescription diet pills and cold remedies.

A woman answering the telephone at Boonsboro Pharmacy had said she planned to take products with PPA off the shelves Tuesday afternoon, but the owner later said he wouldn't have them removed until he got official word from the FDA.

"I know there's been a lot of discussion on that. Until I see something from the government we're not making a move," said Gary Haas, who owns Boonsboro Pharmacy and Sharpsburg Pharmacy.

Larry Hickman, pharmacist at Home Care Pharmacy in Williamsport, said he wouldn't have PPA products pulled until he sees an order from the FDA.

"In the meantime, I'm recommending that people avoid it, if they can," Hickman said.

Several other pharmacies contacted by The Herald-Mail reported they had already begun or would begin Tuesday to remove PPA products.

CVS spokesman Todd Andrews said it probably would take several days to get the products off the shelves.

Denise Petro-Ellis, Home Care pharmacist at the Robinwood Medical Center campus, said she hadn't gotten an official FDA notice, but preferred to pull PPA products so the store wouldn't endanger anyone.

Rite Aid, which has a pharmacy at County Market, issued an order Monday night to have PPA products pulled, said corporate spokeswoman Jody Cook.

All PPA products at Martin's Food Markets were to be pulled Tuesday, said Giant Food Stores spokesman Denny Hopkins. Customers who bought PPA products from Martin's and don't feel comfortable using them can get a refund, even if the product was opened, he said.

Customers who have a new or partially used PPA product can get a full refund, Cook said.

People looking for alternatives to PPA products should call their doctor.

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