FDA Links Zicam to Permanent Sense of Smell Loss — Other Homeopathic Products Under Scrutiny

By June 19, 2009Dangerous Drugs

On Tuesday, the FDA shocked thousands of consumers with an advisement to stop using Zicam cold remedies. The announcement cited links between three Zicam products — Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids’ Size — with the loss of sense of smell. The culprit ingredient in these so-called “natural” Zicam Products is zinc, a mineral that scientists say has been known since 1938 to damage nerves in the nose needed for smell. According to the Washington Post, zinc also has apparently been used to destroy sense of smell in laboratory animals.
Also called anosmia, the loss of sense of smell can be permanent. This amounts to the loss of one of your five basic senses. Without sense of smell, not only are you unable to experience full quality of life by smelling pleasant scents, but your ability to detect dangerous fumes or smoke is also greatly impaired — in other words, a properly functioning nose could save your life. Your sense of taste is also greatly diminished when you can’t smell, making you much more likely to ingest spoiled food, or food tainted with harmful substances.
The advisement came after more than 130 reports had been submitted to the FDA about a loss of sense of smell in patients who used one of the three Zicam products. Some reports came after several doses of Zicam, but many of these people said their anosmia occurred suddenly, after just one dose. In response to this alarming body of evidence, the FDA sent Matrixx Initiatives, manufacturer of Zicam products, a letter of warning stating that the products could no longer be marketed without FDA approval.
The FDA has stated that Zicam Cold Remedy was never formally approved because it is part of a group of remedies called homeopathic products, formulations that typically use small doses of “natural” active ingredients including herbs, minerals and flowers. This may be the FDA’s policy, but as a southern Illinois product liability lawyer I would like to point out that this is no excuse for laxity in product testing. “Natural” is a far cry from “harmless.”
The letter also stated that the products were not properly labeled to reflect the risk of anosmia that has been associated with them. You might think this was all news to Matrixx, or that they thought that 130 cases somehow weren’t enough to merit labeling their product with a safety advisement. The fact is that they have already settled more than 400 lawsuits about this very thing, including a giant $12 million lawsuit in 2006. The company also has received more than 800 anosmia complaints, which the FDA recently asked them to surrender. The company did not comply.Speaking as a St. Louis pharmaceutical liability attorney and as a human being, a company neglecting to account for that many injuries in the name of profit is positively appalling.
The FDA says it is especially concerned about intranasal zinc use in children, since children might lose sense of smell but be less likely to communicate the condition to an adult. Fortunately, the Kids’ Size Cold Remedy Swabs had already been discontinued prior to the FDA’s announcement. Matrixx has said it will withdraw its dangerous products from stores, but extensive damage has already been done. With Zicam sales in the millions, the chances are good that someone close to you has used this product, or considered using it, at least once. Worse, reports are now surfacing that Zicam products are not the only “homeopathic” products out there that are causing serious side effects. These problems could affect millions of Americans — all of whom would have a legal claim against the products’ manufacturers
Zicam products reeled in about 40 percent of Matrixx’s $111.6 million in sales last year. While Matrixx decides what its next move will be, the FDA has advised people who have experienced any sense of smell loss or other problems after use of any of the three Zicam products to consult their health care professional. I would add that they should consult a Missouri dangerous drug attorney directly after. The loss of one of life’s most basic and crucial senses is a possibility no one — not even Matrixx — can afford to ignore.
If you or someone you love has experienced a loss of sense of smell and has used Zicam products, or has experienced serious side effects after taking any product labeled as “homeopathic,” please contact Carey, Danis & Lowe right away. In a dangerous drug injury lawsuit, you can claim payment for all the medical treatment related to the supplement’s defects, plus lost wages and compensation for your injuries.
Based in St. Louis, Missouri, our pharmaceutical liability lawyers represent clients across the nation who have been hurt by defective medications and over-the-counter remedies. If you would like to learn more about your rights and options, please contact the Lowe Law Firm online, or call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400 for a free, confidential consultation.