Study Finds Zinc Nasal Sprays Can Endanger Sense of Smell

Although we have long been writing about the link between zinc nasal sprays, such as <"">Zicam, and anosmia—a loss of one’s sense of smell—a study has finally found that same link in research involving 25 patients at a nasal dysfunction clinic and a review of “clinical, biological, and experimental data,” writes Science Daily.

Anosmia can be extremely dangerous, as the ability to smell alerts people to fires, poisonous fumes, leaking gas, and other potentially fatal emergencies. In addition to completely losing their sense of smell, Zicam users who are stricken with anosmia are also robbed of their sense of taste. Because they can no longer enjoy food, many anosmia sufferers fail to take in adequate nutrition.

The recent study found that over-the-counter (OTC), homeopathic nasal therapies containing zinc might be linked to a reduction in one’s sense of smell, said Science Daily. The report appears in this month’s issue of the JAMA/Archives journals, Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

“Intranasal zinc gluconate is a popular over-the-counter alternative therapy that is used for prophylaxis [prevention] and treatment of the common cold,” the authors wrote, quoted Science Daily. “The efficacy of this intervention is questionable, with a recent structured review demonstrating insufficient evidence to support any therapeutic effectiveness of zinc. Multiple randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have found that intranasal zinc is ineffective in preventing or reducing the duration of the common cold,” the authors added.

Zicam products are a popular line of homeopathic remedies used to decrease the duration of the common cold. The active ingredient in Zicam products is zinc gluconate, which can have a caustic effect on the nasal passages. Over time, this caustic effect can cause Zicam intranasal users to lose their sense of smell.

Sadly, the U.S, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not require Zicam to undergo clinical testing for safety because the treatment is considered a homeopathic remedy. This, as well as a dearth of warnings about the potential health consequences of zinc, left Zicam users unaware that the product could permanently rob them of their sense of taste and smell. More information on this issue can be accessed at:

Study authors cited uncertain efficacy and that intranasal zinc treatments can be linked to hyposmia (permanent reduction) or anosmia of one’s sense of smell. Using the Bradford Hill criteria, the team was able to clearly link intranasal zinc to anosmia, said Science Daily. The criteria look at the likelihood of an environmental exposure causing a disease and also researched intranasal zinc gluconate therapy and olfactory dysfunction basing on “published, peer-reviewed medical literature and clinical reports” from the 25 patients. The team concluded that “Increased Food and Drug Administration oversight of homeopathic medications is needed to monitor the safety of these popular remedies,” quoted Science Daily.

In June 2009, the FDA warned consumers not to use three Zicam intranasal cold remedies: Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel; Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs; and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size. The warning followed the agency’s receipt of over 100 anosmia reports linked to these three Zicam products. At the same time, the agency issued Matrixx Initiatives—maker of Zicam—a warning letter that cited its failure to provide adequate warnings about the risks of these dangerous Zicam products.

Many people have yet to receive compensation for their Zicam injuries, and continue to file lawsuits against Matrixx.

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