phen·​yl·​eph·​rine ˌfe-nᵊl-ˈe-ˌfrēn How to pronounce phenylephrine (audio)
: a sympathomimetic agent C9H13NO2 that is used in the form of its hydrochloride as a vasoconstrictor, a mydriatic, a nasal decongestant, and by injection to raise the blood pressure

Examples of phenylephrine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Oral phenylephrine, the active ingredient in decongestants sold in the U.S. since 2005, doesn't work. Laura Helmuth, Scientific American, 1 Mar. 2024 Roughly two decades ago, oral phenylephrine began proliferating on pharmacy shelves despite mounting—and now damning—evidence that the drug simply does not work. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 13 Sep. 2023 The panel’s vote tees up a likely decision by the agency on whether to essentially ban the ingredient, phenylephrine, which would result in pulling hundreds of products containing it from store shelves. Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times, 13 Sep. 2023 Last fall, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee said that phenylephrine, a decongestant found in a wide range of over-the-counter cold and flu medications, does not work. Berkeley Lovelace Jr., NBC News, 9 Jan. 2024 Earlier this fall a Food and Drug Administration panel concluded that oral phenylephrine—a common active ingredient in cold and allergy medicines—is useless at clearing up congestion. Marla Broadfoot, Scientific American, 1 Dec. 2023 Like many other over-the-counter ingredients, phenylephrine was essentially grandfathered into use during a sweeping FDA review begun in the 1972. Matthew Perrone, Fortune Well, 12 Sep. 2023 The panel is not questioning the effectiveness of nasal spray phenylephrine, which is still thought to provide temporary relief from congestion. Berkeley Lovelace Jr., NBC News, 12 Sep. 2023 The science was clear: oral phenylephrine does not work. Randy Hatton, Scientific American, 21 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'phenylephrine.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


phenyl + epinephrine

First Known Use

circa 1947, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of phenylephrine was circa 1947

Dictionary Entries Near phenylephrine

Cite this Entry

“Phenylephrine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Medical Definition


phen·​yl·​eph·​rine ˌfen-ᵊl-ˈef-ˌrēn, -rən How to pronounce phenylephrine (audio)
: a sympathomimetic agent with vasoconstrictive properties that is used in the form of its hydrochloride C9H13NO2·HCl especially as a nasal decongestant and mydriatic and to raise blood pressure

Note: Trademarks for preparations containing phenylephrine include Actifed and Neo-Synephrine.

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