July 12, 2012 - This week, ABC News picked up on an issue that has been simmering just below the surface for months and causing thousands of otherwise healthy men unnecessary pain and suffering. The story was written in response to a new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine which suggests that Merck’s widely-prescribed hair loss treatment Propecia (generic: finasteride) could cause persistent sexual side effects that may continue for months or even years after quitting the drug.
The ABC report came as no surprise to plaintiff lawyers and their clients around the country. To date, a large number of Propecia Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of men throughout the United States who claim to have suffered serious sexual side effects after taking the drug.
Like many men approaching their 30th birthday, Kevin Malley started to notice that he was losing his hair. He made an appointment with his doctor to see if there was any way he could keep from going bald, and was given a prescription for Propecia with no word from the doctor about potential side effects.
"I looked young for my age, so I wanted to hold off my hair loss for a little bit," Malley said. "I didn't plan on taking Propecia for more than a year."
Malley started taking the drug in May 2011, and in less than six months, he was suffering from persistent erectile dysfunction and had no sex drive whatsoever. Not long after, his body changed, his testicles shrank, and, understandably, he sunk into a deep depression that he could not shake. His doctor told him the complications would go away if he stopped using Propecia, so he did, but nothing changed.
"I kept expecting the side effects to go away, but they did not, they only got worse," he said.
According to a study published yesterday in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Kevin Malley is hardly alone.
Researchers from George Washington University interviewed a cohort of 54 male test subjects under the age of 40 who reported serious persistent sexual side effects after taking Propecia. None of the men reported having any sexual, medical or psychiatric problems before they started taking the drug. Some of the test subjects took Propecia for as little as a few weeks, other for a number of years, but all of them reported adverse complications such as impotence, decreased sex drive, problems achieving orgasms, shrunken genitalia, as well as neurological problems such as depression, anxiety, and mental instability.
Sadly, 96% of the men reported sexual problems that lasted for more than a year after they discontinued treatment with Propecia.
"Our findings make me suspicious that this drug may have done permanent damage to these men," said Dr. Michael Irwig, author of the study. "The chances that they will improve? I think it's lower and lower the longer they have these side effects."
First approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997, Propecia works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into a more potent form called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a primary contributor to hair loss. At the time of its approval, Merck noted that a few men reported sexual complications during preliminary clinical trials. On its website, the company said those side effects were resolved when the patients stopped taking the drug.
But from 1997 to 2010, the FDA received more than 400 adverse event reports (AERS) from consumers who claimed to have suffered from sexual dysfunction, and nearly 60 men reported that their complications lasted longer than three months after they stopped taking the drug. Last year, the administration issued a press release announcing that it was requiring a label change for Propecia, warning that some users reported impotence that lasted after they discontinued treatment with the drug. In April, the FDA again updated Propecia’s warning label to include reports of libido, ejaculation and orgasm disorders.
Without warning, Merck inexplicably pulled all Propecia content from its website in February 2012. Although the company offered no explanation for the move, industry insiders speculated that it was likely due to the growing number of lawsuits filed over Propecia sexual side effects in recent months.
As the number of Propecia lawsuits continues to grow nationwide, consolidation proceedings have begun in a number of jurisdictions. Men in New Jersey who filed lawsuits involving Propecia will now have their cases overseen by Judge Jessica R. Mayer in the Superior Court of Middlesex County. The lawsuit coordination was conducted in response to an order issued by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
While the Propecia litigation is not currently designated as mass tort, the coordination of these cases is intended to allow a larger number of similar claims to move through the process quickly by consolidating discovery and other pretrial proceedings.
In addition to the New Jersey consolidation, in April a number of federal cases involving Propecia sexual side effects were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) under U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York. The Propecia MDL case number is 1:12-md-2331.
Michael E. Schmidt is recognized as one of America’s most passionate, accomplished and skilled trial lawyers. His law firm, Schmidt & Clark, LLP is currently accepting Propecia lawsuits in all 50 states. To learn more about this topic, from an experienced Propecia lawyer please visit his website: http://www.schmidtandclark.com/propecia