Man who lost sense of smell believed Zicam safe
He was like millions of other consumers who sometimes take vitamins or echinacea, hoping to build up his immunity or ward off a cold. He figured alternative remedies were as safe as a spoonful of honey.
But that notion washed away with one squirt of a homeopathic cold gel.
David Richardson, of Greensboro, N.C., is one of hundreds of patients across the country who have lodged complaints about Zicam Cold Remedy, saying it destroyed their sense of smell.
“It’s like watching a sunset in black and white. The things that you take for granted, not only smelling fresh-cut grass or bread in the oven … you miss those parts of your life,” he says. “There’s not a day that goes by that you’re not reminded of it.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that people who can’t smell may also miss danger signs in their daily lives like smoke or gas. It moved to force three Zicam products — Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Nasal Swabs and discontinued Swabs in Kids’ Size — off the market Tuesday and told consumers not to take them anymore.
Zicam belongs to an under-the-radar but legal sector of the drug industry called homeopathic remedies. They hold a unique legal status: They are mainly sold without prescription as legal drugs claiming to treat specific ailments, yet they are not routinely reviewed for safety or benefit by the FDA. The agency rarely acts unless safety questions arise after marketing.
Most scientists say homeopathic remedies contain active ingredients in such low concentrations — often 1 part per million or less — that they are usually safe.