North Carolina Man Says Poligrip Left Him Disabled, Plans Lawsuit

A North Carolina man who used Poligrip for 20 years says zinc in the denture cream caused him to become disabled. Johnny Howell , 53, of Winston-Salem, will soon file suit against GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Poligrip.

We’ve long been reporting on the problems linked to zinc-containing denture creams like Poligrip, as well as Fixodent. 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.

In August 2008, the peer reviewed journal “Neurology” reported on four patients suffering from neuropathy and other neurological symptoms typical of zinc poisoning and copper depletion. Normal blood levels of copper range from 0.75 to 1.45 micrograms per milliliter (mL), but levels for the patients in the report ranged from less than 0.1 to 0.23 micrograms per mL. The top normal number for zinc blood levels is 1.10 micrograms per mL, but patients had levels ranging from 1.36 to 4.28 micrograms per mL. The article specifically linked excess zinc in Super Poligrip to “profound neurologic disease” in the patients reviewed.

Recently, GlaxoSmithKline began including an insert in packages of Super Poligrip informing users that the popular denture cream contains zinc, and warning that using excessive amounts may cause health problems. The insert also includes directions for using Super Poligrip, as well as diagrams and an illustration of the “proper” amount that should be used. The directions tell users that Super Poligrip should only be used once a day, and that a tube of Super Poligrip should last several weeks, depending on size. Finally, it reassures users that swallowing small amounts of Super Poligrip can occur, and is not harmful.

Unfortunately, the new warning came too late for Howell. He told that the zinc poisoning allegedly caused by Poligrip has caused his legs to suddenly buckle beneath him. Howell said that his disability has caused him to fall down on several occasions, and he has broken a rib an ankle, and cracked his wrist.

Howell first developed symptoms of zinc poisoning in 2004, when he had been using Poligrip for 15 years, and got a neuropathy diagnosis last year. He did not know what was causing the disease until last year, when he had his blood tested and found out that his zinc and copper levels were out of whack. Even after treatment, he suffers from numbness, weakness and pain in his legs. Howell eventually lost his job as a mechanic and had to go on disability. He now requires the use of a walker.

Scores of people from across the country have already filed lawsuits alleging zinc poisoning from products like Poligrip and Fixodent. Denture cream lawsuits claim that the manufacturers of these products failed to warn about their risks and failed to provide adequate warnings about the zinc in their products, or adequate instructions to prevent deviation from accepted use.

Last fall, the many denture cream lawsuits pending in federal courts were consolidated for centralized and coordinated pre-trial proceedings in the Denture Cream Products Liability Litigation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division, before the Honorable Judge Cecilia Altonaga (MDL No. 2051).

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