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Poligrip User Plans Zinc Poisoning Lawsuit

Jan 13, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

A man from North Carolina is planning on filing suit against GlaxoSmithKline, claiming the company's Poligrip denture cream caused him to develop debilitating neuropathy. 

Johnny Howell , 53, of Winston-Salem, told that he first developed symptoms of zinc poisoning in 2004, when he had been using Poligrip for 15 years, and got a neuropathy diagnosis last year. He did not know what was causing the disease until last year, when he had his blood tested and found out that his zinc and copper levels were out of whack. Even after treatment, he suffers from numbness, weakness and pain in his legs. Howell eventually lost his job as a mechanic and had to go on disability. He now requires the use of a walker.  He has had to place his wife, a stroke victim, in a nursing home because he is unable to care for her.

The human body does need zinc – but only in small amounts. Too much can lead to copper deficiency, and eventually, nerve damage.  In August 2008, the peer reviewed journal “Neurology” reported on four patients suffering from neuropathy and other neurological symptoms typical of zinc poisoning and copper depletion.  The article specifically linked excess zinc in Super Poligrip to “profound neurologic disease” in the patients reviewed.

Recently, GlaxoSmithKline began including an insert in packages of Super Poligrip informing users that the popular denture cream contains zinc, and warning that using excessive amounts may cause health problems. The insert also includes directions for using Super PoliGrip, as well as diagrams and an illustration of the “proper” amount that should be used. The directions tell users that Super Poligrip should only be used once a day, and that a tube of Super PoliGrip should last several weeks, depending on size. Finally, it reassures users that swallowing small amounts of Super PoliGrip can occur, and is not harmful.

When he files his lawsuit, Howell will not be alone.  Dozens of people have filed similar suits against the makers of zinc-containing denture creams.  Last fall, the many denture cream lawsuits pending in federal courts were consolidated for centralized and coordinated pre-trial proceedings in the Denture Cream Products Liability Litigation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division, before the Honorable Judge Cecilia Altonaga (MDL No. 2051).

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