A new pharmacy-only cough medicine that treats the underlying driver of any cough has been launched.

Cough complaints are responsible for around 2.6m GP consultations with sales of cough medicines in pharmacies reaching £19m in winter 2014.

Unicough is the first medicine to tackle cough reflex hypersensitivity, the underlying driver of the urge to cough, irrespective of whether the cough is dry, tickly, chesty, wet or troublesome.

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Pharmacist and member of the Cough Information Council, Angela Chalmers, said: “This is really good news for patients.

“Many have been confused about which type of medicine to buy because they are not sure what kind of cough they have.”

Developed by British firm infirst+ Healthcare, Unicough is the fist pharmacy-only cough medicine to be licensed in 30 years.

It contains active ingredients, within a patented cocoa formulation that forms a film over the mucous membrane and sensitive nerve endings.

A real world, single-blind, randomised study of 163 patients at 18 pharmacies and five GP practices in the UK, coordinated by Kings College Hospital, London, found Unicough to be more effective than a simple linctus.

Professor Alyn Morice, head of cardiovascular and respiratory studies at the University of Hull, said there could be wider benefit to reducing cough among patients with viral upper respiratory tract infection (URTI).

“Recent developments in the understanding of cough have led to a general acceptance that in acute cough due to URTI, the cough reflex becomes hypersensitive,” he said.

“Patients with a URTI will benefit from a reduction in cough reflex sensitivity, whether the cough is chesty or dry, because they are driven by the same common mechanism.

“In addition, it could be beneficial to inhibit a cough to diminish the person to person transmission.”