Raleigh, N.C. GlaxoSmithKline will no longer make or market Poligrip denture adhesives with zinc, the company announced Thursday.
The pharmaceutical giant, which has one of its manufacturing headquarters in Research Triangle Park, N.C., has been under attack from consumers who said they suffered permanent nerve damage after using the zinc-based denture creams.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the company, and more are likely.
“We feel this is the right thing to do right now,” said Tracey Spriggs, director of medical affairs for GSK’s Consumer Healthcare business.
Zinc, added to three Poligrip products in the 1990s to boost holding power, is an essential mineral that is necessary in trace amounts. But it can trigger muscle weakness and poor balance in large doses.
Many of those who became ill didn’t know the source of their problems. Until last year, zinc wasn’t listed as an ingredient on the denture creams, and there were no warnings that excessive amounts might be harmful.
Johnny Howell, 53, of Winston-Salem, N.C., said he’s permanently disabled after years of generously slathering Poligrip to keep his false teeth in place. He lost his job as a mechanic and cannot drive because his legs suddenly buckle under him, causing falls and injuries.
Howell filed a lawsuit against GSK last month.
“The damage has been done,” Howell said, adding that he will never get better.
GSK officials said problems such as Howell’s are unusual, and appear to result only after prolonged, excessive use.
In all, Spriggs said, the company has received about 400 reports of health problems from customers.
Worldwide, Spriggs said, more than 8.5 million people use Poligrip brands.
“This clearly indicates this is a very rare event,” Spriggs said.