FDA: Stop using three Zicam cold remedies

Consumer Reports News: June 16, 2009 05:18 PM

The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to use three Zicam intranasal products that contain zinc, after receiving 130 reports of anosmia and the loss of sense of smell. The three over-the-counter products—Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs, and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size (a discontinued product)—are widely sold in pharmacies, retail stores, and online. The products claim to reduce the duration of the common cold and the severity of cold symptoms.

The agency sent a warning letter to the maker of Zicam, Matrixx Initiatives, advising the firm that these products cannot be marketed without FDA approval and stating that the products do not include adequate warnings about the risk of loss of sense of smell.

We've previously reported on the risky side effects of zinc-based nasal products, such as loss of smell and impaired sense of smell, taste, or both. In 2007, more than 300 consumers sued Matrixx Initiatives claiming loss of smell.

As a general rule, our experts advise that you not use homeopathic products, since there’s not enough evidence to justify using them and these products have not been sufficiently reviewed by the FDA. If you have purchased any of the three Zicam products, the FDA urges that you not use them, and either throw them away or return the products to the retailer. And if you or your child has experienced loss of sense of smell or other problems after using any zinc-containing nasal products, contact your doctor and report it to the FDA’s Medwatch program.

Ginger Skinner

Read more on the risks of homeopathic remedies, and join the discussion. And see our Treatment Ratings (subscribers only) for the common cold.

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