In the wake of the recent FDA advisory warning that the homeopathic cold remedy remedy Zicam can cause a loss of the sense of smell, the New York Times publishes an article detailing the dangerous extent of the Bush administration's anti regulatory philosophy:
So here we have a company flouting medical regulation by labeling its product a "homeopathic remedy" and, what's more, continuing to sell it even after receiving hundreds of complaints from consumers:
In 2006, Matrixx paid $12 million to settle 340 lawsuits from Zicam users who claimed that the product destroyed their sense of smell, a condition known as anosmia. Hundreds more such suits have since been filed.
Although the F.D.A. took no action during the Bush administration, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, who was named the agency commissioner by President Obama, said the incidence of anosmia associated with Zicam “strikes us as a fairly large problem.”
The agency issued its consumer alert even though Matrixx refused to recall its products, a highly unusual event. In a news release, Matrixx said it had suspended shipments of Zicam and would reimburse customers who wanted a refund.
“Matrixx Initiatives stands behind the science of its products and its belief that there is no causal link between its intranasal gel products and anosmia,” the release said. “For this reason, Matrixx Initiatives believes that the F.D.A. action is unwarranted and will seek a meeting with the F.D.A. to review the company’s product safety data.”
Matrixx had $101 million in sales last year, of which $40 million came from Zicam products. Because Matrixx has called Zicam a homeopathic product, the company was not required to seek agency approval before selling it.
The F.D.A. does not have the power to order product recalls but must rely on manufacturers to do so voluntarily. Bills now moving through Congress would give the agency that power. Bush administration appointees said the F.D.A. did not need mandatory recall authority because companies always withdrew unsafe products when asked.But the government sometimes negotiated for days or weeks before companies agreed to recalls, leading many more consumers to be put at risk.
Matrixx has received more than 800 reports of Zicam users losing their sense of smell but did not provide those reports to the F.D.A., said Deborah M. Autor, director of compliance in the agency’s drug center. The law requires producers of approved drugs to forward to the F.D.A. all reports of product-related injuries, but Ms. Autor declined to say whether this reporting requirement applied to Matrixx. (emphasis added)$40 million in annual sales, $12 million in onetime lawsuits. You do the math. It's pretty clear from this why a "voluntary recall" program is not enough to prevent these snake oil salesmen from hawking their dangerous wares.