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Zicam Lawsuit Filed

In what could be the opening salvo in a new wave of lawsuits against the Scottsdale-based maker of Zicam, lawyers filed a lawsuit on behalf of 117 people who claim they have suffered loss of smell after using the popular nasal spray.

Among those suing Scottsdale-based Matrixx Initiatives Inc. include one dozen Phoenix-area residents as well as the chef of an upscale Las Vegas-area restaurant who no longer can smell or taste food.

Matrixx officials said they had not seen the lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, but a spokesman said the company believes that its nasal products are safe and do not cause loss of smell.

Company officials are bracing for additional lawsuits after the Food and Drug Administration last week issued a warning letter linking Zicam nasal gel and swabs to loss of smell. The company responded by voluntarily recalling its Zicam Cold Remedy nasal gels and swabs from retailers nationwide. The company has more than a dozen oral Zicam products that were not targeted by the FDA and remain in stores nationwide.

William Hemelt, Matrixx’s acting president and chief operating officer, last week said the FDA’s warning letter and following publicity “undoubtedly” leaves the company vulnerable to additional lawsuits.

Legal battles are nothing new for Matrixx. The company has already faced more than 400 lawsuits over the past decade from people who claimed that Zicam’s Cold Remedy gel has caused anosmia, or loss of smell. In 2006, the company settled a batch of lawsuits with 340 plaintiffs for $12 million to avoid the legal cost of defending each individual lawsuit.

Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Monday include Richard Kennedy, 62, of Glendale. The retired Arizona Supreme Court research analyst said he used the Zicam gel about three to five times earlier this decade. He later noticed that be could not smell odors that his friends and family could. He was diagnosed with anosmia by an ear, nose and throat specialist.

“If I knew (loss of smell) was a potential side effect, I never would have taken it,” Kennedy said.

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