Pharmacotherapy of chronic cough in adults

Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2003 Jul;4(7):1039-48. doi: 10.1517/14656566.4.7.1039.


Chronic cough is a debilitating symptom for which patients commonly seek medical attention. Among adult non-smokers who are not taking an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor and have a normal or near normal chest radiograph, postnasal drip syndrome caused by a variety of rhinosinus conditions, asthma and non-asthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease singly or in combination, are the most common diagnoses underlying chronic cough. Pharmacotherapy for chronic cough can be either specific or non-specific. Specific therapy is preferable and the most effective as it is directed at the aetiologies and pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for cough. In contrast, non-specific therapy is used only in limited clinical settings, as it is directed at the symptom rather than underlying aetiologies and aims only to control, rather than eliminate cough.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / complications
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough* / complications
  • Cough* / diagnosis
  • Cough* / drug therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Nasal Decongestants / therapeutic use*


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists
  • Nasal Decongestants