By MATTHEW PERRONE and CURT ANDERSON
WASHINGTON (AP) - GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday it will remove
zinc from its denture cream, following reports that excessive use
over many years can cause neurological damage and blood problems in
The British manufacture will cease manufacturing and marketing
Super Poligrip Original, Ultra Fresh and Extra Care products in the
U.S. The company plans to reformulate the creams without zinc.
The company stressed that the products are safe when used as
directed, but some patients use extra cream to help with
Glaxo's voluntary action comes as hundreds of patient lawsuits
are poised to go to trial, alleging Poligrip caused nerve damage,
leading to a loss of balance, loss of sensation in the hands and
feet, and leaving patients unable to walk.
"They made the right decision in the sense that it's going to
prevent the crippling of more people," said attorney Andy Alonso
of Waichman Alonso LLP. "But it's too late for many of my clients,
Alonso represents more than a hundred users of denture cream in
Miami federal court, where several hundred lawsuits are being
consolidated. He estimates about 30 million people in the U.S. wear
dentures and use products like Poligrip.
One of the lawsuit plaintiffs, 62-year-old Ronald Beaver of
Tamarac, Fla., used PoliGrip for years before he began feeling weak
and developed a blood disorder four years ago. He's now able to
work only two days a week at his moving company job and feels "run
down" much of the time.
Told of GlaxoSmithKline's decision on zinc products, Beaver said
he was "shocked" because the company had consistently denied any
problems in the past.
"It's like a complete admission. They went from outright denial
to a complete admission," Beaver said.
Lawyers suing Glaxo said Thursday the company's decision will
put pressure on other makers of zinc-containing denture cream, most
notably Procter & Gamble, which makes Fixodent.
Calls to the Cincinnati-based company were not immediately
Glaxo markets several zinc-free denture adhesive products,
including Super Poligrip Free, Comfort Strips and Powder.
Denture creams containing zinc were first approved by the FDA 15
years ago, and the agency has never issued a safety warning on the
products, according to industry group Consumer Healthcare Products
Zinc is believed to help with adhesion, and the denture products
are considered safe when used at recommended levels.
However, in 2008 researchers at the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas described a possible link
between denture cream zinc and nerve damage.
The researchers noted that excessive zinc can purge the body of
copper, a chemical needed for normal brain and nervous system
A copper deficiency can cause anemia, as well as weakness and
numbness in arms and legs; difficulty walking and loss of balance;
and eventually permanent paralysis.
"Our typical Super Poligrip and Fixodent client uses a
wheelchair, walker or cane for mobility and many of them have hands
so spastic that they resemble claws," said Eric Chaffin, a partner
with Chaffin Luhuana, which represents several dozen patients.
Glaxo and P&G only began disclosing the zinc in their products
after the University of Texas researchers' findings were published.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)