Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Zicam, Zinc and the Common Cold

The Food and Drug Administration has recommended that consumers should stop using Zicam,(also here) an over-the-counter, anti-cold remedy. The good folks at Zicam are complying with the FDA in that they are removing Zicam nasal swabs and gels from the market. But, Zicam is also going to the FDA to "vigorously defend its scientific data, developed during more than 10 years of experience with the products, demonstrating their safety." Zicam is also offering refunds for those that have their products in their medicine cabinents. A list of other useless Zicam medications, that are not affected by the FDA warning letter can be found here.

So just what is Zicam and does it work. Zicam is basically zinc gluconate that is delivered directly into the nose using a gel or swabs. There is some evidence that zinc gluconate, taken orally, is effective in reducing common cold symptoms. There is an equal amount of evidence that zinc gluconate does nothing to alleviate cold symptoms. Papers published in scientific journals that support or do not support the efficacy of zinc gluconate in reducing common cold symptoms can be found here.

The problem with intranasally applied zinc gluconate is that zinc ions on nasal epithelium can result in the loss of capacity to smell, a condition called anosmia. Matrixx Initiatives Inc., the parent company of Zicam their products do not cause anosmia and they have evidence to prove it.
The Company believes these products are safe and do not cause anosmia. The Company's position is supported by the cumulative science and has been confirmed by a multi-disciplinary panel of scientists.
Of course, you might want to take into consideration that the company made over $100 million selling these ineffective products.

And, what about the man behind Zicam "Dr." Robert Steven Davidson? This guy has a Bachelors degree from Excelsior College, a "virtual college" located in Albany, NY (although it is accredited). He also has a PhD from "obtained from an unaccredited and now-defunct university in Spain"

A free, full text review of the efficacy of zinc in reducing cold symptoms can be found here. So decide for yourself in taking an over-the-counter medicine that may or may not reduce your common cold symptoms is worth possibly losing your sense of smell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are other safer alternatives. For example a recent study showed that just walking on a consistent basis could reduce the risk of contracting a cold by 50%. You can read the full report at