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Cold medicine ingredient no better than placebo, study finds

An active ingredient found in many over-the-counter cold medicines is unlikely to help you get rid of your phlegm, a new study has found.

The research published in the May 2014 issue of the Respiratory Care journal found that Glyceryl Guaiacolate Ether (GGE), also called guaifenesin, provides no assistance in getting people with a cold to cough up the excess mucus.

"It doesn't really help clear out mucus," the study's lead author, Dr. Bruce Rubin, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, told

GGE is a FDA-approved expectorant and has been used in brands like Mucinex.

For the study, a total of 295 adults with a cold or cough went through an eight-day, multi-center clinical trial where they were given two 600-mg extended-release GGE tablets (Mucinex) or a placebo twice a day.

At the conclusion of the study, researchers concluded that "extended-release GGE administered at the recommended dose is no more effective than a placebo in changing sputum properties."

Although the study focused on whether or not it was effective in getting rid of the mucus buildup, researchers say that doesn't mean taking cold medicine will have no impact.

"It doesn't mean it won't make you feel better," Rubin said.

The study was paid for and requested by Mucinex. CBS News' requests for comment on the study from Mucinex were not immediately returned.