Health Watch: Nasal Spray To Restore Sense of Smell

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Many take being able to smell for granted. But for millions of people who can’t, the lack of smell interferes with enjoying food. Now a homegrown solution is helping a growing number of people.

Sherry Pernick, who lives in South Jersey, can finally smell coffee and enjoy the taste of a cookie.

“It’s fabulous,” Sherry said.

For years, Sherry had not been able to smell because of asthma and sinusitis. There aren’t many treatments.

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“Smell is kind of neglected in the medical community,” said Dr. Marc Goldstein of the Asthma Center in Philadelphia. “It’s not considered a severe disability. People don’t die from this. Yet, if you talk to the people who’ve lost their sense of smell, it really affects their quality of life. It affects how we interact in the world, how we enjoy food.”

Sherry, who enjoys traveling overseas, was never able to enjoy foreign food because she couldn’t smell or taste it.

“How do you not go to these different countries and not enjoy their food? It was very unpleasant,” Sherry said.

Her solution: a nasal spray made from the drug theophylline, which is traditionally prescribed to treat respiratory issues. It’s normally given in pill form or through an IV.

“It really is a game changer for people who respond to it,” said Dr. Goldstein. He had a nasal spray of the drug specially formulated. He says for about half of the patients who tested it, it worked.

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“It changes the chemistry in the olfactory epithelium inside our nasal airway, where smell is perceived initially,” Dr. Goldstein said, “and it restores some of these receptors so the signal can get from the receptor to our brain.”

Sherry was quickly and easily acing smell tests. Now she is looking forward to rediscovering the delights of smelling roses and tasting food.

“It’s been a total life changer,” Sherry said. “I call it liquid gold.”

Dr. Goldstein says while the nasal spray itself isn’t FDA approved, its main ingredient is. He expects to be prescribing it to more patients, who often have issues with smell during spring allergy season.

 

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