Deputy Marshal in W.Va. Sues Zicam Maker Over Loss of Smell

May 23, 2007

A deputy U.S. marshal from Putnam County is suing the maker of a popular cold remedy, saying it caused him to lose his sense of smell, which is critical to his line of work.

William L. Seckman, 42, who works in and around Charleston, says he relies on his sense of smell to detect working methamphetamine labs, which have a distinctive odor sometimes described as similar to the smell of ammonia or rotten eggs.

Since he took the over-the-counter nasal spray Zicam for a cold in October, Seckman claims in his lawsuit filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court that his sense of smell and taste are not as keen.

Named as defendants in the April 27 lawsuit are Matrixx Initiatives and its subsidiary Zicam LLC. They deny the claims made in Seckman’s lawsuit and the more than 400 other similar lawsuits filed against Matrixx since October 2003.

Seckman blames the companies for not warning him of the potential risks caused by the presence of zinc in the nasal spray, which hit the market in 1999.

Matrixx settled 340 lawsuits last year for $12 million. Company officials said that was done not as an admission of liability, but because it made good business sense.

The Phoenix-based manufacturer stands by the product and says that when used properly Zicam does not cause users to lose their sense of smell, also known as anosmia.

Matrixx convened a scientific advisory board in 2004 to study the claims and found that they largely lacked scientific merit. The board determined that the major causes of anosmia are upper respiratory infection and nasal and sinus disease, which are “ever-present in the population of Zicam users,” according to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“None of the Zicam gel approaches the smell tissue when Zicam is used as directed, and there is only scant and questionable evidence that even trace amounts can reach the upper nasal cavity when the product is egregiously misused,” the filing said.

Seckman is asking for a jury trial and is seeking potential lost earnings, court and medical costs and damages for pain and suffering.

Information from: Charleston Daily Mail,

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