Vicks First Defence review
Drug reviews

Vicks First Defence review: Are you being FOOLED?

One day whilst working in a pharmacy I was approached by an elderly gentleman who asked me if we sold Vicks First defence Nasal Spray. I directed him to a general sale aisle. Just before departing, the gentlemen said, ‘It must be good, all nurses in Addenbrookes [ward] use it’. I have never paid attention to Vicks First Defence nasal spray. I have never recommended it to any customer, but after I heard this statement, I needed to find out more about the product hence, Vicks First defence review. I wondered if Addenbrooke’s nurses did their research or possibly a drug rep visited the ward in question (unlikely), or maybe it’s just word of mouth did its trick.

What is Vicks First defence nasal spray?

Vicks First defence nasal spray is advertised as products that can be used in the fight against cold or flu. The manufacturer of Vick’s First defence spray claims that it can reduce/prevent the chances of developing a ‘full-blown’ cold, when used in the first 36 hours of the cold, on the onset of first symptoms, for example when feeling a scratchy throat, tickly nose or sneezing.

How?

Vicks First defence nasal spray is designed to neutralise the virus which causes cold and flu by trapping it inside a microgel, which is sprayed inside your nose. Recommended for anyone aged 12 and above, including pregnant and breastfeeding customers, Vicks First Defence nasal spray seems like a magic bullet against cold.

Vicks First Defence review: the evidence

I would love to write a positive review of Vicks First Defence nasal spray and like Addenbrookes nurses recommend it (so you can click in the Amazon link and I can earn my referral share ;-), however, the evidence supporting the above claims is not available for public review. Although some references are noted on Vicks website in the product description, they are not accessible to the general public, should you wish to read more about the product effectiveness.

Vicks First Defence review: are we being fooled?

Like Addenbrookes nurses, many customers are being a victim of clever marketing. Yes …, you get some reviews from users about the nasal spray working, or magically preventing a cold (it seems Vicks First Defence is popular on trans-Atlantic flights), however, nothing exists in a public domain to support the effectiveness of this product.

In majority cases, a common cold is caused by a rhinovirus. Once inside the nose, rhinovirus infects the cells, replicates, producing many copies of itself. Symptoms of the common cold may develop as early as 12 hours after the infection with the virus and may include: runny nose, sneezing, and congestion (Harris et al, 1996). Not all patients who are infected with rhinovirus get cold symptoms. It takes about 2-3 days for the infection to peak. There is no cure for a common cold.

Studies have shown that the body’s immune system responds to infection very quickly. In less than 24 hours after the infection, our body starts to fight it (Kennedy et al, 2012). It is questionable if nasal sprays such as Vicks First Defence can prevent the spread of viruses.

Vicks First Defence spray contains zinc. Some evidence exists which shows no change in the duration of the common cold when zinc containing nasal spray was used in a research study (Belongia et al, 2001).

Vicks First defence spray review: legal matters

How is it possible to make claims with no further information for public review?

Vicks First defence nasal spray is marketed as a medical device and not as medicine. In the concept of this post and according to MHRA, a medical device is an ‘instrument’ for human use to prevent, or treat or alleviate a disease (MHRA, 2013).  

With this, Vicks First defence nasal spray can be purchased from any retail outlet. Furthermore, its intended actions are not achieved by pharmacological means (as opposite for example to drugs). Although claim-supporting information must be available, it does not have to be made public.

Vicks First defence review: conclusion

With a lack of evidence and questionable mechanism of action at a molecular level, I can conclude Vicks First Defence nasal spray is a marketing gimmick. Our body’s immune system is excellent is fighting off infections. Any benefits are questionable since the immune system kicks in at the early stages of infection.

References:

Belongia EA, Berg R, Liu K. (2001). A randomized trial of zinc nasal spray for the treatment of upper respiratory illness in adults. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9343(01)00765-3 Accessed on 25/11/2019

J. Mitchell Harris, Jack M. Gwaltney, Incubation Periods of Experimental Rhinovirus Infection and Illness, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 23, Issue 6, December 1996, Pages 1287–1290, Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/clinids/23.6.1287 Accessed on 25/11/2019

Kennedy JL, Turner RB, Braciale T, Heymann PW, Borish L. Pathogenesis of rhinovirus infection. Curr Opin Virol. 2012;2(3):287–293. doi:10.1016/j.coviro.2012.03.008 Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.coviro.2012.03.008 Accessed on 25/11/2019

MHRA (2013). Medical devices: how to comply with the legal requirements. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/medical-devices-how-to-comply-with-the-legal-requirements Accessed on 25/11/2019

I am a community pharmacist working in UK. I blog about drugs, health and pharmacy.

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