(Bloomberg) -- US Senator Marco Rubio slammed companies that continue to sell cold and flu drugs even after decades of research showing that their main decongestant ingredient isn’t effective.

In letters sent to big sellers of the therapies including Mucinex maker Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc, Sudafed maker Kenvue Inc. and Vicks NyQuil maker Procter & Gamble Co., the Florida Republican demanded answers about companies’ decisions to make and sell drugs containing the ingredient and whether they intend to continue doing so.

“Millions of Americans have relied on your phenylephrine-based products to achieve relief,” the senator said in a copy of the letter viewed by Bloomberg News. “Despite a multitude of evidence proving the inefficacy of this ingredient, your company has deceived sick Americans in pursuit of low manufacturing costs and high profit margins.”

The companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Read More: Common Nasal Decongestant Doesn’t Work, FDA Advisers Say 

Food and Drug Administration advisers agreed unanimously earlier this month that evidence is lacking to support the effectiveness of oral phenylephrine, the main decongestant ingredient in a wide range of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. The agency did not identify safety issues with the ingredient. In studies going back to at least 2007, the last time the FDA considered the drug’s effectiveness, it has shown little impact. 

The FDA panel’s vote is non-binding and the agency makes the final decision on whether oral phenylephrine can remain available for sale. It was reviewed and cleared in in 1976, and retail spending on products containing it was about $1.8 billion last year, according to the FDA. Many cold remedies that contain the decongestant also package other ingredients like antihistamines and cough suppressants.

In the letter, Rubio asked the companies whether they’re aware of multiple challenges to phenylephrine’s approval and the data supporting them. In a separate statement, he said he’s “deeply concerned” that the panel’s conclusion means consumers are using ineffective drugs. 

“This is a clear deception of the American people,” he said.


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