What is the role of drugs in the etiology of taste and smell disorders?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Eric H Holbrook, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Toxicity of systemic or inhaled drugs (eg, aminoglycosides, formaldehyde) can contribute to olfactory dysfunction. Many other medications and compounds may alter smell sensitivity, including alcohol, nicotine, organic solvents, and direct application of zinc salts. [19]

Over-the-counter zinc nasal sprays have been implicated in the cause of smell loss. On June 16, 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health advisory and notified consumers and healthcare providers to discontinue use of intranasal zinc products. The intranasal zinc products (Zicam Nasal Gel/Nasal Swab products by Matrixx Initiatives) are herbal cold remedies that claim to reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms and are sold without a prescription. The FDA received more than 130 reports of anosmia (inability to detect odors) associated with intranasal zinc. Many of the reports described the loss of smell with the first dose. [20]

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