Hot Doc: Zicam maker sued (again) for lost sense of smell

December 30, 2010

Zicam No-Drip Liquid Nasal Gel Cold RemedyA Texas woman is suing Matrixx Initiatives, Inc., the maker of the popular Zicam line of “homeopathic” cold remedies, alleging that she lost her sense of smell after using the now-discontinued Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel Spray.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff “experienced burning pain” and then suffered a permanent loss of her senses of smell and taste after using the product.

The nasal gel spray – along with two other Zicam-branded intranasal cold remedies – was pulled from store shelves in 2009 after the FDA issued a warning to consumers to stop using them. (All other Zicam products were specifically excluded from the warning.)

Hot Doc: Pumphrey v. Matrixx Initiatives Inc. (Tex. Dist. Ct., Travis County)

Source: Westlaw News & Insight – National Litigation

The new lawsuit is nothing new to Matrixx (the defendant), which for years has had to defend itself against similar claims. In a 2007 press release, the company stated that “upper respiratory infections and nasal and sinus disease are the causes of the smell dysfunctions reported by some consumers.

“One of the most common causes of smell disorders is the cold itself, the very condition the product is used to treat,” the company said. “[…] The company’s position is supported by cumulative science, and it has now been confirmed by a multi-disciplinary panel of scientists and the decisions of four separate federal judges evaluating the scientific evidence in seven cases.”

Even so, Matrixx has settled such lawsuits in the past, without admitting any fault. One of the earliest cases – a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 340 Zicam users – was settled in 2006 for $12 million.

“The decision by Matrixx to settle some lawsuits was a business and economic decision,” the company said in 2007. “It was not based on any perception that the claims are legitimate. The company believes they are not, and the courts that have been asked to rule on the question thus far have agreed. But Matrixx is a relatively small company with obligations to its shareholders, and lawsuits are expensive.”

For more current “Hot Docs” like this one, plus timely news and analysis of litigation developments around the country, be sure to check out the Westlaw News & Insight – National Litigation website.