‘Medicines to avoid in 2024’ list published by French medical review

The 105 drugs are considered to be ‘more dangerous than useful’ but the majority are still widely available and used

A view of a packed pharmacy shelf
Of the 105 medicines on this year’s list, 88 are still on sale
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The annual list of medicines to avoid - those that are considered ‘more dangerous than useful’ - has been published in France, and includes a cough medicine and an antibiotic.

Each year for the past 12 years, the specialist medical review Prescrire has published an updated list of medicines whose serious side-effects are considered to be too risky or severe in comparison to the treatment they are intended to provide.

People are warned to avoid the medicines on the list, and doctors are advised to find alternatives when prescribing.

This year, there are 105 medicines on the list, of which 88 are still sold in the country, which the review condemned as “much too high”, and showed that health authorities were “lacking in protecting patients”. Some of the still-for-sale medicines on the list are even widely used, the review warned.

Read more: Why are ‘medicines to avoid’ allowed to stay in circulation in France?

Commonly-used medicines

The most commonly used drugs on this year’s list include:

  • Moxifloxacin (sold under brands including Izilox). An antibiotic. This is “no more effective than other [antibiotics]”, the review said, but offers a greater risk of acute liver failure and heart problems.

  • Oxomemazine (Toplexil or other). A cough reliever. This “exposes patients to disproportionate adverse effects”, Prescrire said.

  • Aceclofenac (Cartrex or other) and diclofenac (Voltarene or other). Oral treatments for rheumatological conditions, but increase the risk of cardiovascular side effects including heart attack and heart failure.

  • Alzheimer's disease treatments, including donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Reminyl) and rivastigmine (Exelon). Most “have minimal and transient efficacy”, the review said, with disproportionate side effects. None of these drugs have been shown to be effective in slowing the progression of the illness, it added, but they are “associated with serious, sometimes fatal, side effects”

Other medicines on the list include treatments for a runny nose, cough, and sore throat. For these relatively less-serious conditions, the risk of side effects is considered to be far too high to justify the use of the drug.

These include decongestants, including Actifed Rhume, Dolirhume, Humex Rhume, Nurofen Rhume, and Rhinadvil. These contain a vasoconstrictor that is intended to improve the sensation of a blocked nose, but they can also, in rare cases, cause serious and sometimes-fatal cardiovascular issues.

Read more: Health alert in France over common cold medicines
Read more: PHOTOS: the cold medicines on sale - but to be avoided - in France

This year’s list also warns against a new immunosuppressant product named ‘teriflunomide’ (sold under brands including Aubagio), which is widely used to treat multiple sclerosis. The product was taken off the Prescrire list last year in order for its ‘benefit-risk ratio’ to be assessed for children aged 10 and over.

The ratio was found to be “unfavourable”, prompting Prescrire to advise that the drug be “withdrawn from care”.

The full list of medicines, organised by category, can be seen on the Prescrire website here.

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