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Did Denture Cream Zinc Poisoning Cause Man's Death?

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Winston-Salem, NCAt least one denture cream manufacturer has announced that it is changing the formula of its product. The news, however, may come too late for people already affected by zinc poisoning, linked to Fixodent denture adhesive and Super Poligrip. According to recent reports, some neurological damage may be permanent. At least one report suggests that a man died from overuse of denture cream.

The 3/30/10 issue of the New York Times reports that Rodney Urbanek began using a walker in 2007 at age 63, approximately a year before his death. His autopsy listed copper deficiency resulting from excessive zinc as a cause of death.

Researchers have reportedly known since the 1950s about the link between excess zinc and copper deficiency, but it was only recently that they connected the dots between excess zinc, copper deficiency and neurological problems. Even so, there have been very few studies examining the link between denture cream and zinc poisoning.

In 2008 Dr. Sharon Nations published a study in the journal Neurology in which she linked denture cream to neuropathy. Her study concludes, "Denture cream contains zinc, and chronic excessive use may result in hypocupremia and serious neurologic disease."

Following Dr. Nations' study, Dr. Peter Hedera analyzed patients with excessive zinc levels and discovered that all used large amounts of denture cream. "Inappropriate use of denture cream appears to be the sole source of excessive zinc in these patients," Hedera concludes.

Those studies were enough to convince patients to file lawsuits against the makers of the denture creams linked to zinc poisoning.

GlaxoSmithKline, maker of Super Poligrip, and Procter & Gamble, maker of Fixodent, initially defended its products as safe when used as directed. More recently, however, GlaxoSmithKline, stopped making its denture adhesive with zinc.

Patients who filed lawsuits against the denture cream makers say they were not warned about the risks associated with overuse of the products. At least one lawsuit alleges that GlaxoSmithKline did not initially include dosage information in Super Poligrip's package insert. The plaintiff in that lawsuit, Johnny Howell, 53, now uses a walker and has left his job as a car mechanic. Howell told the New York Times that he wrecked his car because his legs could not hit the brakes.

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