Matrixx Corp., the makers of Zicam nasal spray, denied the allegations that their product caused a permanent loss of smell when taken by consumers. This denial came after settling multiple lawsuits worth millions of dollars for plaintiffs who stated they did indeed lose their sense of smell after taking Zicam.
After the FDA warned consumers of the potential loss of smell due to Zicam use, Maxtrixx released a statement saying it “believes [Zicam nasal spray] products are safe and do not cause anosmia." Anosmia is the clinical term for a loss of smell. The statement went on to say, "The Company’s position is supported by the cumulative science and has been confirmed by a multidisciplinary panel of scientists.”
Matrixx also said they believe the FDA warning is "unwarranted."
Matrixx claims no study linked Zicam nasal spray with a loss of smell. However, that’s not completely accurate.
A study was performed by a Dr. Burton Slotnick and a group of researchers, according to Kristina Duda. The results showed only a partial and/or temporary loss of smell in mice when given extremely large doses and the damage was reversed within a couple of weeks.
Here’s the catch – the study was supported in part by a grant from Matrixx. I’m not accusing Dr. Slotnick and his team of researchers of impropriety, but it makes one question the outcome of a study on a product that’s being funded by the manufacturer of said product.
According to doctors not funded by Matrixx, the reports are very different. Dr. Bruce Jafek, an otolaryngologist in Colorado (CO) reported about the loss of smell from patients due to Zicam nasal spray usage at a clinical meeting in 2003.
Dr. Jafek stated, "In my opnion, the product is dangerous in putting zinc ions into the nose … If a person wishes to continue to use this product certainly they should be warned that they could lose their sense of smell. It’s an uncommon problem but for the person who loses their sense of smell, it’s devastating."
Matrixx uses zinc gluconate in Zicam nasal spray under the assumption it was less dangerous than its chemical cousin, zinc acetate. However, this is apparently not the case and zinc gluconate causes just as many side effects.
The Taste and Smell Clinic in Washington, DC evaluated several patients who claimed to have lost their ability to smell after using Zicam. Careful measurements of their smell acuity indicated loss of smell function consistent with their clinical complaints, according to tasteandsmell.com. Some patients also experienced distortion of smell consistent with the deafferentation hypersensitivity associated with loss of any significant sensory input (e.g., phantom limb syndrome).
Medical experts have known since 1938 that zinc can harm smell tissue in high doses. In fact, Canadian doctors used a zinc nasal solution to kill the sense of smell in children as part of an experiment to prevent polio, according to The Washington Post.
This isn’t the first-time a zinc-based nasal spray caused serious side effects. Cold-Eeze, a nasal spray with zinc as its primary ingredient, had lawsuits brought against the manufacturer a few years ago. Cold-EEze was removed from the market in 2004 after just one year.
As a personal injury lawyer who’s been practicing for over 20 years, I’m always distressed when I hear about these horrible side effects associated with popular, over-the-counter medications. It’s clear the Matrixx should have done studies to see what side effects occur when injecting zinc gluconate into nasal passages. People’s lives are being forever altered because of Matrixx’s irresponsible actions.
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