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Dec 14 2009

News flash: FDA was right on Zicam

If you were over at Greg Laden’s blog sometime around June, you might have seen an otherwise innocuous post about the FDA and warning labels on acetaminophen explode into astroturf-central in relatively short order. The people doing the astroturfing had a vested interest, it turns out, in discrediting the FDA: they were working for Swanson Vitamins, and were trying to muddy the waters about the very oversight body that was working to recall one of their cash cows, Zicam. For those of you that don’t know, Zicam is primarily a nasal gel with a lot of zinc, marketed as a “homeopathic” cure for the common cold. There’s some evidence that zinc taken orally might have some effect in shortening colds, but nothing showing that it helps if administered nasally.

Not only is there no evidence that intra-nasal zinc application doesn’t HELP, there’s actually a lot of evidence that it HURTS. And by hurts, I mean it can cause people anosmia — the total inability to smell. Permanently.

The talented Scicurious explains:

You can see here the treatments, and on the left side what they were staining for. In all the cells, they found Adenylyl cyclase 3, beta-tubulin (a protein specific for neurons, and since MOE ARE neurons, you’d look for that), and olfactory market protein. You’re looking for the green stains in all of these. And again, only with Zicam was there a big reduction in detection of these proteins.

This isn’t happy, because this means the cells are just insensitive. It implies that they’re dead.

I hope all those astroturfers feel a terrible pang of guilt that they were arguing for the elimination of the oversight body that generally works against the pharmaceutical companies that bring to market such horrid products. Real people trusted your advice, fuckwits. And real people were, and continue to be, hurt, when you peddle your unscientific “medicine” and fight for looser protections for the public.

Read more here.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Dan J

    I’m sure they don’t feel any guilt. They’ll probably argue now that if the FDA operated properly, it would have stopped Zicam before it was sold to the public, thus saving everyone involved lots of money, and lots of suffering.

    They’re a bunch of greedy leeches. The “independent reseller” garbage with the vitamins and supplements is full of multi-level marketing assholes who don’t give a shit what they’re selling, or what it does to people, as long as they get their cut. I have known people into that crap, and I consider them to be among the slimiest of individuals I’ve ever met. Please note that I have never actually met Kevin Trudeau, Ray Comfort, Ken Ham, Casey Luskin, etc., so they can’t be included in my comparison.

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    Yeah. Had a coworker pitching Acai berry juice around here, and he was basically using people and selling the MLM “your chance to be a millionaire” crap instead of the juice itself. And he’d always refer to it as a “business”. I totally agree with the “slimy” epithet… which is sad, because when we met I thought he was a good, decent human being.

  3. 3
    Steve

    I was working on a project in a remote part of Alaska and many of the people there swore by Zicam and Emergen-C.

    When research data came out that showed high doses of vitamin C could actually be bad for humans and shortly thereafter, the Zicam debacle happened, I made sure that we no longer carried the Emergen-C as part of our “comfort supplies”. Of course the Zicam was no longer available.

    It actually made some of them mad! They were so convinced that these worked that they were willing to ignore the hard data and continue to use these items at the peril of their future health.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    I’d assume your project members were scientists of some stripe? Of course, they’re humans, so I can kind of see the mass of conflicting impulses, but still… you’d assume objective evidence of human harm would trump anecdotal evidence and selection bias.

  5. 5
    Steve

    No scientists, just construction crews. Some of them were only barely literate so scientific literacy was out of the question among many of them as well and I had to carefully explain the reasoning behind my decision. It especially concerned me because some of them were consuming up to 4, 5, or even 6 grams of vitamin C daily in addition to their dietary intake.

    I even had the, “It’s a conspiracy in favor of the drug companies,” line thrown at me when I had to tell them that the Zicam was no longer available.

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