NewsInferno; April 5, 2013
Lawsuits are mounting against Merck & Company over its hair loss drug, Propecia. Allegations include long-term, sometimes permanent, sexual side effects.
Approved in 1997 to treat male pattern baldness, Propecia (finasteride 1 mg) is part of a class of drugs known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs). Propecia’s active ingredient can interfere with male hormones, including testosterone derivatives. In higher doses, the drug is sold under the brand name Proscar and is approved as a treatment for men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) or urinary problems.
Meanwhile, over 400 lawsuits are pending in state and federal courts over Propecia, says Lawyers USA Online, over allegations of side effects, such as loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and infertility. More than 140 lawsuits have also been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York; over 50 cases in state courts in New Jersey have been consolidated, as well, says Lawyers USA Online. Plaintiffs allege Merck knew about the risks of ongoing side effects, pointing out that Propecia labels in other countries were changed as long ago as 2008 and mentioned those risks, Lawyers USA Online notes.
In April 2012, Merck changed its label warning to indicate that sexual problems may persist even after Propecia has been ceased, according to Lawyers USA Online. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the new warnings for the Propecia and Proscar labels detailing possible long-lasting male sexual side effects associated with the drug. Until the FDA ordered that label change, warnings provided to U.S. users of the drug suggested that these problems typically resolve. As we reported previously, Merck changed the Propecia label in Europe several years ago to warn that the drug could lead to permanent erectile dysfunction.