The Propecia Class Action Lawsuit
Propecia: The “Wonder Drug”
In 1997, pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Inc received FDA approval to sell the drug finasteride, better known under the brand name Propecia. It was marketed as a cure for male pattern baldness, which afflicts nearly one out of every three males over the age of 30.
Adverse Side Effects
However, like most drugs, Propecia had a number of side effects, including sexual dysfunction.
The most controversial of Finasteride’s side effects relate to sexual performance, specifically:
- Long-term erectile dysfunction
- Marked decrease in libido
- Decreased semen output
- Recurring testicular pain
Propecia’s warning label claimed that the side effects will subside once the user stops taking doses. However, clinical research in several countries, such the UK’s Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and Sweden’s Medical Products Agency, revealed that the side effects were long-term, in direct contradiction to the claims of the manufacturer.
Because of this, the labels for Propecia sold in Europe were changed to reflect the possibility of persisting sexual dysfunction. However, this has not been reflected in the labels used in the US.
It was only in June 2011 that the FDA ordered Merck to change the warning for drugs sold in the US.
Increased Risk of Cancer
In July 2011, the FDA released a warning to healthcare professionals that continued use of finasteride can mask the early detection of prostate cancer, potentially delaying diagnosis and treatment until the tumor becomes a high-grade condition.
In March 2011, the health ministry of Canada warned that users of 5-mg doses of Propecia exhibited an increased risk of contracting male breast cancer.
As early as 2005, a number of men who regularly take finasteride complained of experiencing depression and mood swings. It was only in December 2010 that Merck revised its warning label to include depression as a potential side effect of using the drug.
Criticism from the Medical Community
Before Merck finally acknowledged the side effects of Propecia, a number of independent clinical studies and medical journals had already uncovered the side effects not listed in the prescription label.
- July 2010 – Dr. Alan Jacobs, a neuroendocrinologist, published a series of papers on what he called the Post-Finasteride Syndrome. Symptoms included erectile dysfunction, a lower libido, and hormonal effects that could cause depression and anxiety.
- October 2010 – Dr. Andrew Rynne accuses Merck of deliberately “lying” in its Patient’s Leaflet by claiming that erectile dysfunction and lower sex drive will cease after stopping drug use.
- March 2011 – George Washington University publishes a study entitled “The Persistent Sexual Side Effects of Finasteride for Male Pattern Hair Loss.”
Published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that 94% of users suffered lower libido, 92% had erectile problems, and 69% experienced difficulties reaching orgasm.
In 2011, the US media began to recognize and report on the undocumented dangers behind the use of finasteride.
Avalanche of Lawsuits
By refusing to acknowledge these adverse side effects and deliberately misinforming its customers for two years, Merck & Co. now faces an avalanche of lawsuits from very angry patients, some of whom have been taking the drug for more than ten years.
- Jan. 24, 2011 – Canadian law firm Klein Lyons filed a class action against Merck Frosst Canada in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, for “failing to adequately warn Canadians of the true risks” of using the drug. Lawyer David Klein says that more than 80 victims have expressed interest in participating in the lawsuit.
- March 18, 2011 – Three law firms from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have filed a Propecia class action in the Federal District Court of New Jersey. The suit accuses Merck & Co. Inc. of failing to disclose the true side effects of finasteride in the US market, even after European health officials ordered its warning labels to be corrected. The plaintiffs are reportedly suffering from various sex-related problems including erectile dysfunction, impotence, a lowered sex drive, shrinkage of the genitals, penile fibrosis and gynecomastia.
- May 17, 2011 – A couple from Florida files a lawsuit, seeking $75,000 in damages from Merck. According to Eddie and Lisa Sebastia, Eddie took both Propecia and Proscar from 1998 to 2007. In June 2009, the husband’s physician advised him that he was suffering from permanent erectile dysfunction. The case was elevated to the District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Nov. 23, 2011.
- Aug. 18, 2011 – Paul Dawson lodges a lawsuit against Merck in the Western District Court of Washington. A Propecia user from February to August 2008, Dawson says the drug gave him erectile problems and depression.
- Oct. 19, 2011 – A lawsuit is filed in the Western District Court of Washington. Charles Shute accused Merck of failing to warn him of long-term sexual dysfunction even after stopping the use of Propecia.
- Nov. 7, 2011 – An unnamed plaintiff in Denver, Co. has filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from Merck for allegedly causing irreversible erectile dysfunction and depression.
- Nov. 15, 2011 – Forty-five year old Vincent Manella and his wife Karen have filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois. Manella began using Propecia in 2008 to treat hair loss, and has since been suffering from erectile dysfunction and cognitive impairment, even after he stopped taking the drug.
If you belong to the thousands of men who used Propecia or Proscar who are now afflicted with erectile dysfunction, decreased libido and other side effects that Merck insists do not persist if doses are discontinued, you can file a lawsuit and seek compensation for the damage done. An expert Propecia lawyer can help you seek compensation and get justice.