Zicam Class Action Lawsuits Filed Over Loss of Smell

Matrixx Initiatives, maker of the recently recalled Zicam Cold Remedy, faces class action lawsuits in California and Missouri that allege they failed to adequately warn consumers that the nasal gel and nasal swab versions of Zicam could cause damage to the sense of smell.

The California Zicam class action lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of lead plaintiff Barbara Sample, and others who purchased Zicam Cold Remedy nasal gel products while in California or from a California source within the four years before June 23, 2009. The Missouri class action was filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court on behalf of Gwendoly West and all residents of St. Louis County who purchased the recalled Zicam products during the year before the FDA warning.

On June 15, 2009, the FDA warned consumers to stop using the popular over-the-counter nasal products, which were marketed to treat the common cold, after receiving more than 130 reports of Zicam side effects involving people losing their sense of smell. Matrixx Initiatives was also warned at the same time that they would no longer be permitted to market the homeopathic products until they submit data establishing the safety and effectiveness for FDA review.

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The Zicam class action lawsuits allege that zinc gluconate, the single active ingredient in Zicam Nasal Gel, is toxic to the tissue inside the nose and is responsible for causing users to lose their ability to smell or detect odors.

Although they voluntarily issued a Zicam recall last month, Matrixx Initiatives continues to state that their product is safe and indicates they intend to “vigorously defend each of the recently filed lawsuits.” It is their position that the zinc contained in Zicam, which has been blamed for the smell loss reported in users, is not deposited far enough up the nose or in large enough amounts to cause nerve damage.

On Thursday, the FDA released a report from a May inspection that points out that Matrixx Initiatives did not turn over consumer complaints about Zicam Cold Remedy nasal swabs and gels as required by federal regulations. The inspection discovered about 800 consumer complaints, and inspectors estimate that 3.6 out of every 100,000 users have experienced Zicam problems with loss of smell. The inspector also notes that reports peaked in 2004, with 6.7 people complaining for every 100,000 units sold.

Damage to ability to smell, known as anosmia, is a very serious side effect that causes significant loss of quality of life. It can also be potentially life-threatening, as victims may be unable to smell dangerous fumes, smoke from fire or food that has gone rotten.

The two class action lawsuits over Zicam follow other complaints filed on behalf of individuals during the weeks after the recall. Those Zicam lawsuits were filed on behalf of individuals who allege that their ability to smell was affected by Zicam, as opposed to the economic loss claims covered by the Zicam class action lawsuits filed for all individuals who purchased the potentially dangerous cold remedy.

13 Comments

  • ChristiJanuary 17, 2013 at 6:49 am

    I used Zicam swabs in 2009 and soon after noticed that my ability to smell was diminishing. I thought it would get better but it did not. I have since lost most of my sense of taste as well. I still have the box I used in 2009 containing remaining swabs. I believe my loss of the ability to smell is first a safety issue since I would not be able to smell smoke if there was a fire or if there was[Show More]I used Zicam swabs in 2009 and soon after noticed that my ability to smell was diminishing. I thought it would get better but it did not. I have since lost most of my sense of taste as well. I still have the box I used in 2009 containing remaining swabs. I believe my loss of the ability to smell is first a safety issue since I would not be able to smell smoke if there was a fire or if there was a gas leak. Second I feel like my quality of life has diminished due to both the loss of smell and taste. Is there anything I can do?

  • angelaDecember 13, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    I used Zicam nasal spray for a little over a week last Spring (2012) and ended up losing my sense of smell and taste. I was totally unaware of any issues with Zicam products so was totally frieked out when I googled "loss of sense of smell and taste" and saw the word "Zicam" pop up, I went to an ENT who treated me with prednisone but it didn't help. I have regained some taste but my taste is tota[Show More]I used Zicam nasal spray for a little over a week last Spring (2012) and ended up losing my sense of smell and taste. I was totally unaware of any issues with Zicam products so was totally frieked out when I googled "loss of sense of smell and taste" and saw the word "Zicam" pop up, I went to an ENT who treated me with prednisone but it didn't help. I have regained some taste but my taste is totally off and a lot of things I used to like now taste terrible, e.g. ginger, cilantro, lemon. It is a travesty that Zicam is still selling these products and boldy running TV ads for products that should be pulled off the market. Is there anything I can do to help shut them down.

  • SteveMay 5, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Wow, I guess I am really behind times. I noticed after using my Zicam nasal spray several times a couple years ago, whenever I inhaled, there would be a bad smell. It would last about 2 days, then go away. I can smell and taste things, that is not a problem, however, many things now smell really strong and offensive to me. There are even certain hot drinks that I can not even be in the same ro[Show More]Wow, I guess I am really behind times. I noticed after using my Zicam nasal spray several times a couple years ago, whenever I inhaled, there would be a bad smell. It would last about 2 days, then go away. I can smell and taste things, that is not a problem, however, many things now smell really strong and offensive to me. There are even certain hot drinks that I can not even be in the same room with! I was hoping this was a temporary thing, but it is still happening.

  • DanielMarch 23, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I have lost much of my sense of smell and believe it is from using Zicam. I have used the product since 2004. What can I do? Is the damage irreparable?

  • JimMarch 22, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I have inexplicably lost my sense of smell. I have used Zicam in the past and upon learning of the Zicam side effects I believe there is a link. Who do I contact to join this class action?

  • JesseJanuary 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I believe Zicam has damaged my sense of smell as well. I used it for approximately 2 years from 2007 to 2009, and now I can't smell much at all. Who do I contact to join this class action?

  • ElaineJune 29, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I used Zicam in 2003 and still have the container with some of the contents still in it. For some time now, I have been without a sense of smell or taste. As I have been uninsured for several years, I just lived with it hoping the loss was temporary. This year, I finally have a primary care physician. When I told her of my problem, she sent me to an ENT. When I mentioned to him that I had u[Show More]I used Zicam in 2003 and still have the container with some of the contents still in it. For some time now, I have been without a sense of smell or taste. As I have been uninsured for several years, I just lived with it hoping the loss was temporary. This year, I finally have a primary care physician. When I told her of my problem, she sent me to an ENT. When I mentioned to him that I had used Zicam, he asked if it gave me a blinding headache. I don't recall a blinding headache. I do recall a burning sensation deep in my nose. After numbing my sinuses and nasel passages he and a fellow ENT did an exam. After the exam he ordered an MRI and today I went in to discuss the results. No tumor, so it's logical to assume there is nerve damage. Apparently, a biopsy of the likely damaged nerve is quite a dangerous procedure.

  • DianeJanuary 15, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I had a cold in July, 2005. I usually lose my sense of smell when I have a cold so I didn't think much about it when I did. My doctor's records state that my first complaint of anosmia was August 16, 2005. My sense of taste and smell never came back and before the cold, it was excellent. I used the Zicam Gel for 3 days and did the damage. I did not relate the connection until I saw the recall[Show More]I had a cold in July, 2005. I usually lose my sense of smell when I have a cold so I didn't think much about it when I did. My doctor's records state that my first complaint of anosmia was August 16, 2005. My sense of taste and smell never came back and before the cold, it was excellent. I used the Zicam Gel for 3 days and did the damage. I did not relate the connection until I saw the recall in June of 2009. I have no receipt or product for proof, only my doctor's record of my complaint. I am so angry and feel so helpless. What can I do?

  • davidNovember 5, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    used zicam in winter of 2007 in spring 2007 i found i lost my sense of smell i consulted ent and neurologist who refred me to mri there was no findings only recently i found there is possible connection to zicam

  • freedomOctober 28, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Hi I am a snowboarder I tryed zicam last season in california because people were sick around me I used them about 6 different times its been about 6 months since then and my sence of smell sucks I can't smell certen things my friends can smell I would like to have a attorny contact me if possiable I have unused zicams also the used product but I do not have receits

  • JoanSeptember 24, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I have lost my sense of smell and taste and did not understand why? I am a nurse and tried to medically attribute it to sinus issues but have since discovered that I do not have a sinus problem. I have used the swabs/spray and have samples that I have bought. Not sure what to do now?

  • PatsyAugust 2, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I just received a call from an Attorney's Office (not sure of name). Since I have lost my sense of smell and taste since using Zicam, they asked me if I had any product left or receipts from purchasing it. I said no. I have since found 4-receipts. I do not have the phone # to call you back. If you see this message, please call me back.

  • JohnJuly 6, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    The sad fact is that the long history of intranasal zinc is ugly. Matrixx knows it and now you know it. Zicam is relatively new. Nothing like it had ever been marketed for human useage. It slipped passed FDA scrutiny because only a select few were even aware of the potential dangers. Unfortunately the FDA was not one of them. If Zicam Nasal Cold Remedy is so safe, then why won't Matrixx test it[Show More]The sad fact is that the long history of intranasal zinc is ugly. Matrixx knows it and now you know it. Zicam is relatively new. Nothing like it had ever been marketed for human useage. It slipped passed FDA scrutiny because only a select few were even aware of the potential dangers. Unfortunately the FDA was not one of them. If Zicam Nasal Cold Remedy is so safe, then why won't Matrixx test it on living human smell tissue just to be absolutely certain of its safety? It is not acceptable for them to proclaim that it can't reach the olfactory region. Let INDEPENDENT taste and smell doctors make that call....NOT Matrixx funded testing. How can we depend on unbiased test results conducted by "the accused" on rats and mice as they may react differently than humans. Afterall, it's humans we need to be concerned with here! And if results show that damage to the sense of smell and taste is possible, then how about placing a clearly stated warning label, rather than blind-side the unsuspecting consumer. That would demonstrate REAL concern for consumer safety. Their attorneys seem happy to always fall back on, "You can't prove it." when there are indeed ways to prove it, but no one from Matrixx have any desire to conduct real studies that produce results that are anything but results they pay to get. The scientific studies funded by the maker should not be totally relied upon. INDEPENDENT SAFETY STUDIES ARE NEEDED to confirm that it is safe or not safe. There are far too many unanswered questions.

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