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Propecia Sexual Dysfunction Lawsuit Alleges Fraudulent Concealment

Pharmaceutical company Merck is once again facing allegations of using deceptive marketing tactics and failing to adequately label their anti-baldness treatment Propecia. The product is linked with a number of side effects including erectile dysfunction and diminished libido.

The latest Propecia sexual dysfunction lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, and concerns a California man who began taking Propecia in 2005, at the age of 27. Prior to being prescribed Propecia, the plaintiff had no history of sexual dysfunction, depression or cognitive impairment, but developed all three symptoms once he began taking it. The symptoms continued even after he stopped taking the drug – one of the hallmarks of Propecia litigation.

More than a million men have taken Propecia since it was approved in 1997. Initially developed to treat enlarged prostates, Propecia – Merck’s brand name for finasteride – was later approved as a treatment for androgenic alopecia, also known as male pattern hair loss. The most common kind of baldness, male pattern hair loss affects half of all men by the age of 50, and is believed to be caused by the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Propecia inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT, thereby preventing or minimizing hair loss.

Propecia sexual dysfunction may affect the majority of users

According to clinical studies, the number of finasteride users who have experienced Propecia sexual side effects could be as high as 39%. A 2003 report found that only 50% of men who suffered sexual dysfunction as a result of taking the drug made a full recovery.

In 2006, another study concluded that the product should be ‘prescribed cautiously’ after participants exhibited signs of increased anxiety and depression. Research conducted in 2011 found that 94% of men reported a low libido after taking Propecia.

Propecia marketing was deceptive

The lawsuit goes on to accuse Merck of fraudulent concealment and negligence, alleging that the company downplayed the risk of side effects. During the launch campaign for Propecia, advertisements stated that any sexual dysfunction or other side effects experienced by users would disappear once treatment was discontinued. Merck was able to take a direct-to-consumer approach to their promotional campaign because hair loss is regarded as a cosmetic issue and not a medical one, and they spent tens of millions of dollars marketing Propecia to men via television commercials.

The commercials and labeling stated that sexual dysfunction was expected in less than 2% of men taking Propecia, and that any side effects would disappear once treatment was stopped. But in another case, a Propecia lawyer stated that Merck had received “adverse reports [from] users… of chronic sexual dysfunction beginning in the late 1990s.” In the same Propecia sexual dysfunction lawsuit, Merck’s marketing is described as “deceptive and misleading.”