FDA, Zicam, and Loss of Sense of Smell (Anosmia)

The FDA has received more than 130 reports of anosmia (loss of the sense of smell) associated with the use of the above Zicam products.  The loss of sense of smell associated with Zicam use may be long-lasting or permanent.  In addition, individuals have reported losing sense of smell after using Zicam for the first time and after using multiple doses of the product.  Zicam contains zinc gluconate, which has long been associated with loss of smell.

Loss of the sense of smell can also affect the ability to taste. The loss or impairment of the senses of smell and taste, poses both quality of life (inability to taste foods or enjoy fragrances) and safety (inability to detect danger signals such as smoke, gas, or spoiled food) issues.

Zicam manufacturer Matrixx Initiatives, Inc., has had to remove several varieties of Zicam nasal cold remedies from the market because of their association with anosmia (loss of the sense of smell).  We have filed a lawsuit on behalf of our clients who lost their ability to smell, and in some cases taste, after using a Zicam nasal gel or swab to treat or prevent a cold.

On June 16, 2009, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers not to use three Zicam products – Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size – because of reports of anosmia in some users.  At the same time, the FDA issued a warning letter to Matrixx Initiatives stating that three Zicam products could not be marketed without agency approval and that the products did not include adequate warnings about the risk of anosmia.

Victims of Zicam anosmia could have easily been spared their pain and suffering, as the association between Zicam nasal gels and swabs and the loss of smell and taste was well-known long before the FDA issued its alert. In fact, Matrixx Initiatives actually paid $12 million to settle a class action lawsuit in 2006 with hundreds of people who blamed Zicam for their inability to smell and taste. Yet even after the settlement, Matrixx Initiatives continued to market Zicam nasal swabs and gels as a safe remedy for the common cold.