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With a new cold season coming, the government is trying once more to decide what to do about over-the-counter medicines for kids' coughs and sniffles. Doctors question the drugs' benefits and worry about their risks.

Pediatricians are urging the Food and Drug Administration, which scheduled a public hearing Thursday on the issue, to demand a recall of the medicines for children younger than 6.

"Parents should know that there is less evidence than ever to support the use of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for young children," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore's health commissioner. "There is nothing that is holding the FDA back from asking for a voluntary recall now of products marketed to kids under 6."

U.S. families spend at least $286 million a year on such cough and cold remedies for children, according to the Nielsen Co. market research firm. In any given week the medicines are used by an estimated 10 percent of all children, with the biggest exposure among 2- to 5-year-olds, a recent Boston University report found.


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