Agreement to Settle Zicam Loss of Smell, Taste Lawsuits Reached for $15.5M

  • Written by: Staff Writers

The makers of Zicam have indicated that they are offering a $15.5 million to settle lawsuits brought by consumers who allege that they lost their sense of taste and smell due to the company’s recalled line of nasal sprays and gels. 

The Zicam settlement was announced on Tuesday by Matrixx Initiatives, Inc., which is preparing to be acquired by H.I.G. Capital LLC, a private investment firm. The company said that 1,014 plaintiffs and 1,127 claimants will be eligible to be a part of the settlement. In return they would drop all lawsuits and claims against the company.

A Zicam recall was issued last year after the FDA identified at least 120 adverse event reports involving loss of smell with Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs Kids Size.

Although Matrixx Initiatives has maintained that their over-the-counter cold remedy could not be the cause for the problems, the manufacturer agreed to remove the product from the market following the FDA warning.

In the aftermath of the recall, FDA inspectors discovered 800 reports of Zicam problems that Matrixx Initiatives failed to forward to the agency, in violation of federal regulations.

A growing number of people have come forward to pursue a Zicam lawsuit against Matrixx Initiatives, alleging that they suffered loss of smell or taste after using the product. Last October, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the federal Zicam recall litigation for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

The Zicam injury lawsuits allege that zinc gluconate, the single active ingredient in nasal Zicam cold remedies, is toxic to the tissue inside the nose and can cause damage to a user’s ability to smell, detect odors or taste; a condition known as anosmia. In addition to causes a decreased quality of life, these Zicam smell and taste problems, could pose a more serious health risk to consumers, who may be unable to detect spoiled foods, gas leaks or other hazardous conditions.

The agreement to settle Zicam suits was reached around the same time it was announced that the manufacturer will be acquired by H.I.G. The acquisition is scheduled to begin on December 22, when the firm will start buying shares for $8 each. That price is a 56% increase in value for the company’s stock price, which tanked after the Zicam nasal spray and gel recall in 2009 and never fully recovered.

In August, Matrixx Initiatives settled 18 Zicam class action lawsuits, agreeing to pay $35,000 and attorney fees to the lead plaintiffs. The company also agreed to place a warning label on the nasal sprays and gels if they are ever allowed to return to store shelves.

Matrixx Initiatives has attempted multiple times to get the FDA to withdraw its warning on Zicam, claiming that the agency does not have the scientific data to make a determination that Zicam causes anosmia, loss of the sense of smell. However, the FDA has refused. And while Zicam nasal sprays and gels were sold as an unregulated herbal supplement, the FDA has determined that the health risks of Zicam nasal products means that the nasal sprays and gels will first have to get FDA approval before returning to shelves.

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  1. Jeri Reply

    How will this affect people who have a claim but haven’t filed a lawsuit yet?

  2. Matthew Reply

    I was not aware of the problems with the Zicam. We’ve had a bottle of the nasal spray type in our medicine cabinet as my wife uses it when she gets colds. I decided to try it on Friday and then again on Saturday, when I woke up Sunday I was unable to Taste my food and thought that it was probably just my cold but two days later and I still can’t taste or smell. I googled Zicam and found out about the issues and lawsuits.

  3. James Reply

    I also was not aware of the Zicam recall. We had a bottle of the nasal spray and I felt a cold coming on a week ago at night. I had never used it before so I tried it. After my first spray it stung like crazy. I went to bed and woke up not being able to smell or taste anything. I thought it was the cold and the product didn’t work. I took more in the morning and that evening. It’s been a week and I cannot taste or smell anything. Trying to reverse these effects. Any ideas?

  4. tom Reply

    I used Zicam about 2 years ago. I still have the package and it is lot # 30574 with an expiration date of 4/10. I haven’t been able to smell anything for nearly 2 years. I had thought it was an allergic reaction and that I was just stuffy all the time, and I also thought it might be the first sign of Alzheimers because I hear that loss of smell is one of the first signs. I’m 67.

    Now I believe it was the Zicam and I want to know if there are any class action suits on going.

    Thank you.


  5. Debra Reply

    I used the Zicam nasal spray about 3-4 years ago. I lost my sense of smell within a few days. I cannot smell burning things, most other things…not even cat urine. I smell other foods distorted. Pineapple smells like rotten food. Fried foods smell like rotten cantaloupe. After all of these years, it has not cleared up. I hate the people that made this stuff. They weren’t even medical doctors nor was the product sufficiently tested. It was a marketing gimmick. BTW, I still have my bottle locked up in my fire safe. I did file a complaint with the FDA.

  6. Christian Reply

    I suffered with chronic sinus issues and purchased the Zicam nasal spray 3 years ago. My sense of smell has been reduced to 25% of what it used to be. I am only 22 years old and I am suffering with the idea that my one of my senses has been permantely damaged! Is there any way i can find more information !

  7. Nancy Reply

    I used Zicam Nasal Gel Spray on December 2, 2011. Today is February 21, 2012 and I have not smelled or tasted a single thing since. When I first sprayed it into my nose, it was such an intense burning that it brought tears to my eyes. I was up all night trying to soothe my throat which also was burned from the spray. I cannot believe that this product is sold in reputable stores. This product MUST be discontinued. The adverse effects are depressing and dangerous.

  8. Debbie Reply

    My husband hasn’t been able to smell for years and it started after using Zicam swabs. He heard about the recall afterwards, but nothing about a class action lawsuit.

    I know there are many more people out there in the same boat. Are there any other suits ongoing?

  9. Carol Reply

    I finally saw an ENT specialist. This is years after I started losing my sense of smell. After a thorough exam he told me it was from Zicam and the sense would not return. Why so long? I had asked former doctors but was told it could be acid reflux and they knew very little about Zicam. I will live the rest of my life with the danger of no sense of smell and the loss of any pleasure in food and drink. I was not a part of this suit because of wrong information. Do I have any recourse?

  10. marilyn Reply

    This is the year 2017 and in March of this year I used Zicam nasal spray and experienced the horrible burning and then loss of taste and smell. This is August and it has not returned. Also have ongoing related problem. My doctor also thought it might be acid reflex – she never heard of Zicam problems until I informed her. Horrible living without either. I weighed 124 and am down to 116. Nothing is worth eating and I only eat knowing my health is important. Is there any recourse? I’ve read, the product was supposed to be off the shelf but obviously it wasn’t.

  11. rhonda Reply

    I used zicam one time, and lost my sense of smell. I too thought it was allergies or just my stuffed
    nose, but even when the cold was gone and I could breath through my nose, I smell nothing. I can sense when there is a smell in the air, but can’t distinguish what it is that I am smelling. It is definitely a problem for me. I can’t smell perfumes, or cat urine, or rotten food…. I have to rely on

  12. Ayodeji Reply

    I have used Zicam from the time it was introduced and still using it till today.
    I lost my sense of smell within a week and I have not regained it since.
    This has had a significant detrimental effect on how I earned my living.

  13. Tracy Reply

    Hi there. So I used Zicam back when it first came out on store shelves. I was coming down with a cold and thought wow what a cool product if it shortens the cold!! Well not the case!! Immediately I had a burning sensation and I lost my sense of smell and taste!!! I went to the doctor and from the nasal spray Zicam I got a bad sinus infection and ear infection!! I was a caterer at the time and thought OMG will I be able to cook for this wedding or smell anything!?! I ended up going to the doctor 3 times and the very last time the doctor says, well I have prescribed you different things the other 2 times to get rid of your sinus infection and ear infection and now my last resort will be steroids!! So he prescribes me steroids for a week to knock it out. Well it still did not help my sense of smell and taste!! It slowly slowly came somewhat back. I still cannot smell right or taste right and it’s now 2018!! I have TINNITUS constant ringing in my ears from when I first took the nasal spray Zicam. So my hearing is bad and my brain is foggy with my concentration being off!! I will be seeking a lawyer to address this issue I have been living with for waaaay too many years now. And what’s really sad is that they are still selling it!!

  14. Chris Reply

    They should have a huge warning sign in the allergies section of every store!!
    I’ve been using afrin and equate brand for a couple years never heard of this till I recently started looking it up.
    I’ve lost all sense of smell in this past year!

  15. Pam Reply

    I lost my sense of smell years ago after using zicam for a cold.i can’t smell, occasional distorted scents. I hate it. Always throwing out food because I can’t smell it..

  16. Keith Reply

    My poor Mom lost her sense of smell years ago from this. I still have the package that caused her loss. What happened with the courts? To lose yourself sense of smell is a big deal. She cannot smell ANYTHING AT ALL!!! What about settlements? What happened with the case? Anyone know?

  17. John Reply

    My sense of smell has been seriously diminished for a number of years. I assumed it was the Zicam when I didn’t see it on the shelves for a long time. I can detect major smells but not minor ones. My wife thinks it’s odd. I like that the product does what it is meant to do, but not this side effect.

  18. Thomas Reply

    Please would somebody find and report what exactly was the concentration of zinc gluconate in Zicam.
    It was obviously far above the normal physiologic limits for zinc in the tissues. How many milligrams per milliliter? What was the percentage? What was the strength? What does it say on the label? This is crucial.

  19. Walli Reply

    I used Zicam lozenges (not the nasal spray) for a bad cold in 2008. I lost my sense of taste and smell completely for 6 weeks. During that time I couldn’t smell anything including coffee, vinegar or bacon, for example. After researching about the time I believed the anosmia was related to the Zicam lozenges. However after joining an online anosmia support group someone mentioned taking magnesium for several weeks and helped restore their sense of smell. I tried that and it worked for me.

  20. Catherine Reply

    I used Zicam for one cold, sometime before 2010. Followed the directions. Soon after the cold was thru I noticed I kept smelling smoke, like someone had just walked past me after having a cigarette. This went on for a few weeks. Then it became the smell of smoke from a fire. Had to have my husband check the house constantly, just in case. Then it became a chemical smell… all of the time. Then it eventually became a sweet chemical smell and eventually no smell. This took months. It is now Nov of 2020 and i basically still have no sense of smell. Some things I may be able to smell, it it’s strong enough. But most things I don’t smell. I miss smelling food cooking. Or being able to warn myself if something is wrong.
    Does it ever come back? This product should never have been sold and I’m surprised to see that some form of it is still on the market. I wish I had known about the class action suit when it occurred. I have to live with the results of this medication for a life time. It certainly changed my life and for the better!

  21. Cheryl Reply

    I too have been adversely affected by Zicam nasal spray, as I no longer have the ability to smell/taste my own breath, and my sense of smell is diminished. The effects have been for 10+ years. When I initially noticed this, it must have been in the very beginning because at the time I did a web search and no one was reporting it enmasse as they are now, and there was no inkling of lawsuits. I wish I would have been more tenacious about it back then, or as the years went by. I have suffered with sinus issues ever since. I have chronic post nasal drip in addition to the smell/taste loss. Boycott all Zicam products!

  22. Philip Reply

    I’m 84. I bought Zicam when I first heard about it and it worked wonders. I never caught a cold…but I soon recognized that I couldn’t smell or taste–nothing. I have a great espresso coffee maker and make a couple of espressos every morning, but after doing Zicam, there was no rich coffee smell–Nada! What a terrible, terrible OTC drug.

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