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Zicam Cold Medicine Under Fire

Posted on June 12, 2009

It looks like trouble for pharmacy company Matrixx Initiatives: A Federal Food and Drug Administration warning has SEC officials looking into reports over a drug called Zicam that could be responsible for an unintended side effect called “Anosmia.”

For the uninitiated, anosmia refers to a loss of the sense of smell. According to an original Wall Street Journal story cited by several online news sources, the FDA received over 100 reported incidents involving anosmia in Zicam users, prompting the issuance of an “alert” to the public regarding the Zicam products used for controlling symptoms of the common cold.

Reports indicate Matrixx has recalled Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, as well as an additional “kids size” product, which amounts to a ten million dollar price tag for the company. How the recall plays out remains to be seen, but the Zicam incident reflects how quickly a drug company can realize liability from products with unintended side effects like these.

The company denies any illegal marketing of Zicam products. Meanwhile, Matrixx has pursued a settlement with hundreds of consumers over the use of Zicam products. The combination of a product recall and a class action suit or settlement isn’t uncommon. An FDA warning and a product recall often signal that legal proceedings are not far off. Whether or not the SEC finds evidence of any illegality, it’s certain that consumer lawyers will be looking at how to assess liability for this and similar cases to see which consumers can be parties to legal proceedings.