Anecdote Rant

Our Lawyers Say “No Numb Noses”


With yet another allergy season starting, I am sitting here with a stuffy, irritated and achy nose thinking back on a letter I sent more than 12 years ago. I had sent the letter to the three major nose spray manufacturers at the time. The basic gist of the letter was as follows:

Here are two suggestions for products that many other allergy and sinusitis sufferers and I would find invaluable:

  • An analgesic nose spray that would relieve sinus pain and headaches associated with sinus pressure, without necessarily decongesting and overly drying-out the sinuses. Being topical, it would be faster acting than a pill.
  • An anesthetic nose spray that would relieve the burning, stinging, and sneezing associated with allergies and hay fever.

I offer these suggestions completely free of any claim to them, financial or otherwise, as I do not have the requisite pharmaceutical knowledge to create them myself, but would very much like to see them available for others and myself.

Now those were two really good ideas, if I may say so myself, but what happened to them surprised me. Two out of the three companies immediately sent my letters back, including their original envelopes, and tossing in a cover letter of legalese explaining that their attorneys forbade them from accepting any unsolicited suggestions from customers. They went on to explain that they had not read my letter beyond seeing that it was a suggestion and that they would not pay me any patent royalties should they produce such a product by chance (since, of course, they had not read it.)

The third pharmaceutical company took a couple of weeks longer to reply. When they did, they thanked me and sent me a stack of coupons for other products they made. They did emphasize that the idea would require considerable further review.

That was over 12 years ago. I have yet to see such a product available over-the-counter — or, for that matter, even as a prescription. There are a few prescription nose-spray analgesics I know of, but they are marketed for specific types of pain, such a migraine, and not for directly affecting the sinuses.

The thing that upsets me most about all this, my reason for writing about it, is that fear of lawsuits has gotten in the way of the good, old-fashioned suggestion box. Look, you’re a company and someone sends you a letter suggesting a new product or service, and they make it clear that they make no financial or other claim upon you for it, why not take it? Or at least send back some kind of legal contract for them to sign to verify that, yes, they are giving you the idea for free and with no further claim. I’d have gladly signed such a document, since it was far more important to me to have the product to use than it would be for me to make money off it.


By Christian Lee

Christian Stuart Lee's Rants and Chants has entertained and informed readers since January 2002. Rants and Chants includes non-fiction writing -- anecdotes, essays, movie reviews, and more. He is diligently working on a novel and other projects, which he hopes to publish soon. He is available for freelance writing -- the materials in Rants and Chants will give you a sense of his interests, knowledge, and style.