Antitussive drugs--past, present, and future

P V Dicpinigaitis, A H Morice, S S Birring, L McGarvey, J.A. Smith, B J Canning, C P Page

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132 Citations (Scopus)


Cough remains a serious unmet clinical problem, both as a symptom of a range of other conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux, and as a problem in its own right in patients with chronic cough of unknown origin. This article reviews our current understanding of the pathogenesis of cough and the hypertussive state characterizing a number of diseases as well as reviewing the evidence for the different classes of antitussive drug currently in clinical use. For completeness, the review also discusses a number of major drug classes often clinically used to treat cough but that are not generally classified as antitussive drugs. We also reviewed a number of drug classes in various stages of development as antitussive drugs. Perhaps surprising for drugs used to treat such a common symptom, there is a paucity of well-controlled clinical studies documenting evidence for the use of many of the drug classes in use today, particularly those available over the counter. Nonetheless, there has been a considerable increase in our understanding of the cough reflex over the last decade that has led to a number of promising new targets for antitussive drugs being identified and thus giving some hope of new drugs being available in the not too distant future for the treatment of this often debilitating symptom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-512
Number of pages45
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Animals
  • Antitussive Agents
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cough
  • Drug Discovery
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy


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