January 23, 2006: A corporation that was the subject of a 7NEWS investigation has agreed to settle a massive lawsuit.
Matrixx Corp. makes the cold remedy Zicam. In 2004, 7NEWS Investigators revealed that some people who used Zicam's zinc nasal spray lost their sense of smell and taste.
On Friday, Matrixx agreed to pay $12 million in settlement awards and other charges to the 300 people who were part of a class-action lawsuit. Matrixx said that will cover about 90 percent of the outstanding claims.
Millions of people have used the nasal spray containing zinc gluconate, and most have not had any problems. However, 7NEWS found that hundreds of people who have used the product also felt an intense burning sensation in their nose, and subsequently lost their sense of smell.
At the University of Colorado Taste and Smell Clinic, Dr. Bruce Jafek continues to hear from patients who claim zinc gluconate has robbed them of their sense of smell.
Jafek said that he began hearing complaints about the Zicam nasal spray about five years ago. In 2003, Jafek's colleague, Dr. Miriam Linschoten, began testing patients who had used the Zicam nasal spray and suffered permanent loss of smell.
The maker of Zicam, Matrixx Corp., denied the product had anything to do with the consumer complaints.
But now, with the settlement, "it would seem the company finally realizes they have a problem with their product," Jafek said.
Jafek said, unfortunately, that means most patients who have experienced smell loss are not going to get it back.
"Approximately 25 to 30 percent have had some return of their sense of smell but that means however 60 to 70 percent have had no return of function," Jafek said. "In my opnion, the product is dangerous in putting zinc ions into the nose ... If a person wishes to continue to use this product certainly they should be warned that they could lose their sense of smell. It's an uncommon problem but for the person who lose their sense of smell, it's devastating."
Matrixx Corp. has claimed correctly that, of the tens of millions of doses of the zinc product used, there is a only small percentage of complaints. While not admitting any fault, the company is paying $12 million to settle the claims.
And because the zinc nasal spray is so profitable, there is no indication Matrixx will take it off the market. So as Jafek says, "buyer beware."
If you have had problems with the nasal zinc products, the FDA wants to hear from you. You can call toll-free (888) INFO-FDA or (888) 463-6332 or fill out a special form on the FDA's Web site