Fixodent Denture Cream Named in Zinc Poisoning Lawsuits

<"">Fixodent denture cream has been associated with severe nerve damage, and even neuropathy. Proctor & Gamble, the maker of Fixodent, had been named in lawsuits alleging that zinc in the product caused users to suffer debilitating injuries.

The human body does need zinc – but only in small amounts. Studies show that consuming at least 50 milligrams of zinc a day for a few months could lead to copper deficiency, which can cause anemia, bone loss, nerve damage and other problems. Ingesting 80 or 100 milligrams or more for months or even years can lead to irreversible damage.

“I started getting tingling in my fingertips,” Fixodent users Mark Jacoby recently told the ABC News program 20/20. “I started getting weaker and, you know, I couldn’t walk right, off balance and I’m at this point now.”

A possible association between zinc-containing denture creams like Fixodent and neurological injuries was first suggested by a 2006 study conducted by University of Texas researchers. The study focused on four patients – all of whom used excessive amounts of zinc-containing denture cream – suffering from neuropathy and other neurological symptoms typical of zinc poisoning and copper depletion. The study concluded that excess use of denture cream could have been responsible for their symptoms.

Unfortunately, that study wasn’t published until 2008. According to the ABC News report, its publication was delayed by one reviewer, who asserted a link between excessive use of denture cream and neurological disease was “little more than speculation,” and claimed that the studies authors “don’t understand the nature of the material they are writing about.” The study authors said they delayed publishing their report and watered down its findings because of these criticisms.

What they didn’t know, according to 20/20 was that the reviewer, Dr. Kenneth Shay, a dentist, was a paid consultant for Proctor & Gamble. What’s more, his actions went beyond criticizing the Texas study – Shay also sent a draft report to the company. “Please be circumspect because, as a reviewer, I’m not supposed to be passing an unpublished manuscript around,” he wrote in an email to Proctor & Gamble.

One medical ethics expert interviewed by 20/20 called Dr. Shay’s actions “wrong” and “outrageous.”

After the study was finally published in 2008 in the journal “Neurology,” many users of Fixodent and other denture cream who were suffering from unexplained neurological problems filed suit against both Proctor & Gamble, as well as GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of <"">Super Poligrip, another line of zinc-containing denture cream products.

Last February, those lawsuits prompted Glaxo to announce it would stop the manufacture, distribution and advertising of three Super Poligrip products that contained zinc. In a statement posted on its website, Glaxo said it was reformulating the Super Poligrip products as a precautionary measure to minimize any potential risks to consumers.

A month later, Proctor & Gamble also took action, but it did not go nearly as far as Glaxo. While it began cautioning consumers about zinc in Fixodent denture creams on it website, and added updated label instructions on how to apply the product, Fixodent still contains zinc.

“I don’t know if you can put a dollar value on my health or anybody else’s, for that matter,” Fixodent plaintiff Ann Coffman, told 20/20. Coffman, who is only 48-years-old, was diagnosed with zinc poisoning and is now wheelchair-bound. “I would prefer to see [Proctor & Gamble) take the zinc right out of the product … or take the product right off the market.”

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