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Merck Falters as Propecia Sexual Side Effects Lawsuits Multiply

One of the powerhouses of the pharmaceutical industry, Merck, is facing challenges on multiple fronts. Profits dropped by almost half in the second quarter of 2013 due to increased competition from generic manufacturers as well as a burgeoning number of claims related to its baldness treatment drug, Propecia.  There are a growing number of lawsuits claiming Merck failed to warn users about Propecia sexual side effects.

By July of this year, an estimated 150 lawsuits have been filed in federal courts against Merck regarding Propecia sexual dysfunction. Many of these cases have been consolidated before a single judge as multidistrict litigation, or MDL. Unlike a class action lawsuit, plaintiffs in an MDL retain the individual nature of their cases.  The U.S. District Court for Eastern New York is the site of the current Propecia MDL.

In addition to the federal MDL, Propecia lawsuits have been centralized on the state level as a mass tort in New Jersey Superior Court of Middlesex County where Merck is headquartered.

Propecia sexual side effects

These alleged Propecia sexual side effects include decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, diminished sexual sensation and infertility.  The Food and Drug Administration also conducted several investigations into Propecia sexual dysfunction between 1998 and 2011. The FDA discovered that not only did these symptoms manifest while a patient was using the drug, but they could persist up to three months after discontinuing use.

Another study by the Swedish Medical Products Agency in 2006 found that users of Propecia could experience permanent erectile dysfunction.  In 2012, the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that almost 96 percent of men reported some Propecia sexual dysfunction for more than a year after usage, and 20 percent experienced sexual side effects for more than six years.

In addition to sexual dysfunction, Propecia is also a contributing risk factor for prostate cancer, cognitive impairment, depression, testicular pain, breast tissue enlargement, male breast cancer, and headaches. In 2011, the FDA cited two studies indicating that Propecia use was a contributing risk factor for high grade prostate cancer.

Merck fails to warn consumers

Court documents reveal that Merck had reports detailing Propecia sexual side effects including erectile dysfunction as early as 1991.  The company did not warn users in the United States about some of these side effects until 2012 when the FDA ordered the company to place them in the warning label.  The new warning label also describes how symptoms could continue after users stop taking the drug.

Propecia lawsuits allege serious injury

Propecia lawsuits against Merck allege that the company was negligent in not warning users about the serious side effects which could result from use of the drug.  In addition to the Propecia sexual dysfunction that could contribute to damaged relationships and poor self-confidence, plaintiffs claim that the medication can cause severe mental and emotional problems that may interfere with normal daily activities.