05/04/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Denture Wearers' Double Whammy: First They're Poisoned, then They're Blamed

On February 18, GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of popular denture cream products such as Super Poligrip, announced that it would remove zinc from all of its denture products. The company cited consumer safety concerns as the impetus for its decision and in a letter to doctors wrote that "long-term excessive use of GSK's zinc-containing denture adhesives" poses a potentially serious health risk.

The pharmaceutical giant went on to state that in 2009, it received "an increased number of adverse event reports" associated with its denture cream adhesives and that together with recent medical literature, evidence is mounting that denture creams laced with zinc can be not only dangerous, but crippling. Still, the company's willingness to take responsibility for the safety of its products ends there.

In the same letter to doctors, the company wrote "patients who have used Super accordance with the instructions may continue to do so safely." What the company fails to note is that for decades, its products carried no dosage instructions or warning about zinc at all. The products' packaging simply told consumers to "start with a small amount" and "use more if needed." Only within the past year did the company acknowledge the dangers associated with its product in a package insert.

Facing an ever growing number of lawsuits from consumers left permanently disabled by its products, Glaxo is utilizing a strategy that corporations often employ when confronted by their own malfeasance: blame the victim. But the company acknowledged that consumers who used excessive amounts of its product did so because they had poorly fitting dentures, which are quite costly to replace. Without clear instructions from the manufacturer, and a warning about the risk of poisoning, consumers cannot be expected to know how much of the product they can safely use.

While Glaxo's decision to remove zinc from its products is a step in the right direction, the company cannot shrug off responsibility for the damage it's done to countless consumers. And while its actions will hopefully prevent future cases of zinc poisoning, a shocking number of denture wearers have already been crippled by a product that most Americans consider innocuous, denture cream.

A number of websites have been launched to provide more information to denture cream users. With a thirty-year history of standing up for consumers, our firm, Blizzard, McCarthy & Nabers recently launched in order to provide the latest consumer information about the risk of denture adhesives and the recourse consumers can pursue.