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Health products you don’t need

From coughs to diets, experts examine the claims


Which? bought popular health remedies from high street chemists and found claims that our experts believe aren’t backed up by enough evidence to convince us to buy them – and, in some cases, there’s no robust evidence at all.

For example, our expert panel examined the published evidence for cough medicines Benylin Tickly Coughs and Benylin Chesty Coughs (both Non-Drowsy) and Covonia Herbal Mucus Cough Syrup, and concluded there is ‘no robust evidence’ that they do what it says on the bottle.

You may be getting more than you bargained for, too. Benylin Tickly Coughs’ active ingredients are glycerol and liquid sugar, but it contains other sugars too.

That’s a generous 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per 10ml dose. If an adult took this medicine at maximum dose for a week, it would be the equivalent of the sugar in five Mars bars.

See all ten products in our gallery of ten health products you don’t need and tell us what you think should be in the gallery by emailing healtheditor@which.co.uk 

Upfront evidence

While it’s important that consumers can choose products that work for them as individuals, we believe that companies should be upfront with their evidence where they make claims.

Boots declined to send us the evidence for its Cold and Flu Relief tablets, as did the manufacturer of Adios slimming pills and Benylin for cough medicines. 

These companies told us that the regulator, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), thoroughly reviews the clinical evidence that their respective products work, as they are licensed medicines.

Companies don’t have to share evidence that they’ve supplied to the MHRA. But it’s important that, however a product is regulated, you should be confident that the company has done robust research and you can trust its claims. 

We believe that all companies must be transparent, so that we can scrutinise what’s really behind the claims and make a truly informed decision.

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