DNC News



Zicam Caution


February 15, 2006
Jacob Schor, ND


Subject: Zicam, the over the counter remedy for cold symptoms, can cause loss of taste.



Over the last few months a number of people have asked my opinion of Zicam,
especially after I wrote about my favorite treatments for colds and flu. I have
always been a little hesitant to recommend Zicam simply because their label is
so misleading. Zicam claims to be a homeopathic preparation. Technically it may
be homeopathic but it is a real stretch to see it so and that has always made me
suspicious of the other claims made by the manufacturer. Recent revelations and
law suits cast more suspicion on the product.

Zicam claims to be homeopathic Zincum gluconicum in 1 x potency. What this
means in English is that it is a 10% solution of zinc gluconate. Typically
homeopathic remedies are sold in much more dilute solutions. For example a 6 x
potency is one part in a million of the original substance. A 12 x potency is
one part in a billion. A 30 x potency is so dilute that there isn’t even a
molecule of the original substance left. This is why homeopathic medicines are
considered safe; there is little or nothing left to cause harm. In the case of
Zicam, by calling it homeopathic and adopting the homeopathic terminology, the
manufacturer found a way to market a 10% solution of zinc gluconate without FDA
oversight.

In other words Zicam is just an intranasal zinc solution. Intranasal zinc has
been known to destroy the ability to smell in both animals and people. In the
1930s, zinc compounds were used in attempts to prevent polio. About 10% of the
people who received the zinc compounds lost their sense of smell permanently.
For years there had been no attempt to use intranasal zinc in humans. However
because Zincam products fall under the homeopathic provision of FDA laws, these
products are not required to get FDA approval before they were put on the
market.

By the way loss of smell is called anosmia.

It is not even clear that these products are useful for treating colds. While
two placebo-controlled trials found that intranasal zinc gluconate modestly
shortened the duration of cold symptoms two other placebo-controlled studies
found intranasal zinc to be of no benefit.

In the most rigorously controlled of these studies, intranasal zinc gluconate
did not affect the severity or duration of cold symptoms in volunteers
inoculated with rhinovirus, a common cause of colds. These studies did find
evidence of anosmia and warned about the condition. The reports stated that
since zinc-associated anosmia may be irreversible.

Earlier this month the manufacturers of Zicam agreed to pay $12 million dollars
to settle a class action law suit brought by 340 consumers who had lost their
ability to smell after using Zicam products. The company which made $46 million
dollars in the first 9 months of 2005 does not plan to take their products off
the market. Even with settling the lawsuits the products are still very
profitable.

Some people have told me they find Zicam an effective aid in treating their
symptoms. Yet if we heed Hippocrates’ injunction to, First, Do no harm, we must
consider Zicam an unacceptable risk and suggest not using it..


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