What might surprise people is that Matrixx, the maker of Zicam, has already paid a settlement to people who said they lost their sense of smell due to the use of Zicam products.
"There was a previous settlement in 2006 for $12 million," Mason says. "The plaintiffs alleged they lost their sense of smell after using Zicam. Matrix has continued to sell the product and consumers have continued to report the loss of their sense of smell, as well as their sense of taste. The FDA recently recommended that people stop using this product and the manufacturer has voluntarily withdrawn it from the market."
It is important to note that the loss of the sense of smell can pose a threat to personal safety. Many people do not realize how vital our sense of smell is in keeping us safe, including smelling a fire or a gas leak to warn of danger. Anosmia is not simply a minor problem; it can be a permanent and serious sensory deficiency.
"Our clients report that they have lost their sense of smell," Mason says. "There are some variations in their reports, but they seem to know that they have lost their sense of smell—it is not a temporary condition. The FDA has said that certain Zicam products can cause permanent loss of the sense of smell. There are some reports—although not as many—for a loss of sense of taste.
"We have had a flood of calls about this product recall, much more than many other products we have investigated. We have a lot of people reporting this particular symptom [anosmia]. Zicam was a popular over-the-counter product and was on the market for many years. There are a lot of people, a surprising number, that report this condition."
Products affected by the recall include Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size.
If you have used the recalled Zicam products and believe you have suffered anosmia you should contact a doctor as soon as possible.
"It is important to see a doctor because a doctor can confirm the injury," Mason says. "Without that, the claim is simply anecdotal. People can lose [the sense of] smell for more than one reason. A doctor can establish that there is an injury by administering appropriate tests. By asking a physician to evaluate your symptoms, you can establish a claim."
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Attorneys are currently preparing files for a lawsuit against Matrixx. Mason says he anticipates that the cases will end up in federal court and will be consolidated on a federal level.
"People need to know that if they used Zicam and lost their sense of smell, they should see a physician and contact a lawyer to protect their rights," Mason says. "Also, they should stop using the drug but retain it as evidence. Don't throw it out because you will need to have proof that you used this product."